Eight-man football

Eight-man football

Eight-man football is a type of American football, generally played by small high schools. Rules and formations vary greatly among states and even among different organizations, but the one constant is eight players from each team on the field at one time, as opposed to eleven-man football, which is played at larger high schools, the college level and in the NFL.

Differences from eleven-man

Several differences distinguish eight-man football from eleven-man, most notably the elimination of three players. It depends greatly on the type of formation used, but the eliminated players are commonly two offensive tackles and a wide receiver on offense and two defensive backs and a defensive lineman on defense.

The size of the playing field is often smaller in eight-man football than in eleven-man. Some states opt for a smaller, 80 yards long by 40 yards wide field (which is also used in six-man); other states, such as Oklahoma, Colorado, and Idaho, keep the field of play at 100 yards long while reducing the width to 40 yards. Finally, some schools, such as those in north Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, play on a full-sized playing field.

Professional eight-man leagues are numerous in the United States and usually follow indoor football rules of a 50 yard by roughly 25 yard field, as professional 8-man football is usually played indoors.

Game play


Variety of offensive play in eight-man football is significantly reduced due to the decrease in options resulting from fewer players. Formations usually require three players in the backfield (a quarterback and two running backs) and five on the line of scrimmage. The interior of the line consists of two guards and a center. Most often, the line players on the edges of the formation are tight ends, or are occasionally split wide as wide receivers.

Formations vary widely between schools and states, but commonly include the I formation and the T formation (sometimes referred to as "pro set"). Common plays include the counter, dive, option and sweep. Passing is usually not as common in eight-man as it is in the eleven-man game. In certain formations, the center or guards can be eligible to catch passes.

Due to the competitive imbalances that commonly occur between small schools, eight-man games sometimes end early due to the 45-point or "mercy" rule. Depending on the rules in force, when one team gains a 45-point advantage over the other, the game is either governed by a running clock for the remainder of the game or the game ends immediately. A team that has won in this fashion is said to have "45ed" the other team.

Attempting the extra point kick after a touchdown is rare in eight-man, due to the lack of specialized kickers and holders and the inability to block defenders from interfering with the kick. For this reason, teams often attempt a two-point conversion instead.

In states that use an 80-yard field, infractions that normally result in a 15-yard penalty are reduced to 10 yards in eight-man ball. And likewise, on touchbacks, the ball is spotted on the 15-yard line instead of the 20.


General defensive alignments in eight-man football consist of defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs. The most common formation is a 3-3-2, in which three defensive linemen (usually a nose tackle and two defensive ends) line up in a "down" position, with three linebackers standing behind, either stacked over the down linemen, lined up on the inside shoulder of the linemen, or on the outside shoulder of the linemen. Two defensive backs then have coverage responsibilities, either with deep halves or man-to-man with the offense's receivers.

Alternate formations include 4-3-1 (linemen-linebacker-safety), 3-4-1, 4-2-2, 3-2-3 and 5-3 among others.

Popularity in Israel

An Eight man league was established in Israel in 2005 with three teams, Haifa Underdogs, Tel Aviv Pioneers and Tel Aviv Sabres. This is the first ever tackle football league in this country, named Israeli Football League (IFL). In the first "Israel Bowl" (IFL championship game) in June 2006 the Haifa Underdogs defeated the Tel Aviv Pioneers 37 - 14 and won the IFL's Ofri Becker Trophy.

Competition with larger schools

Occasionally, schools in a small division with larger enrollments are forced to play eight-man, despite having a player turnout sufficient for eleven-man. This is done when the school in question has no other schools of similar size nearby.

In addition, teams have been known to play combination eight- and eleven-man games, in which both teams compromise by fielding eight players per team when School A is on offense and School B is on defense and 11 players when School A is on defense and School B is on offense.

ee also

*Six-man football
*Nine-man football
*Arena Football

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