High School football is back on the High Desert, but for one team, things are totally different.
“(Our) Little town from Culver is not going to change OSAA’s mind,” said Culver head football coach Brian Silbernagel. “OSAA is kind of geared to take care of the bigger classifications and so it is what it is and we’re just going to move forward with it.”
For the Culver Bulldogs and the rest of 2A schools, the 11-man game of football is no more.
An ad hoc committee for the Oregon School Activities Association decided it’s time for a change.
Making all 2A schools play 9-man football.
“A couple different reasons behind that,” said OSAA Executive Director Peter Webber. “In the past there have been a couple of schools that have played 9-players. Mainly at the sub-varsity level, but occasionally at the varsity level when they just don’t have enough kids. We’ve seen the size of those rosters shrink.”
Webber says another big factor besides the decline in participation numbers is the flexible schedule 9-man football provides.
“You can have 9-player teams playing an 8-player team,” he said. “You can play an 11-player team one week, you can play a 9-player team the next week and you can do that a lot more easier than say, an eight to eleven.”
With Culver being the smallest Central Oregon football program and with the closest 2A team being over two hours away, Bulldog head football coach Brian Silbernagel disagrees with that.
“It’s kind of the opposite for us,” Silbernagel said. “When we’ve had JV games cancellations in the valley with our league. I have always been able to pick up 11-man games over here with our JV team whether it was Sisters, Madras or Crook County.”
With major differences from playing 9-man then back to 11-man football, Silbernagel thinks those local make-up games aren’t an option anymore.
“Trying to make the leap from JV 9-man to 11-man for one week or one game, it’s just not very fair to the athletes I believe.”
Webber said in January a survey taken by the OSAA had 32 of 35 schools in favor of 9-man football, including Culver.
“Whether that was the coach, or the A.D. or somebody else, I don’t know,” Webber said.
“I’m an 11-man guy,” said Silbernagel. “I thought we should have remained there, but it is what it is. OSAA made their decision, so we’re embracing it and going forward with 9-man.
The players admit the game will be different, but to them it’s still football.
“Honestly, it’s better because you get more space to run and basically do what you want,” said senior running back Isacc Solis.
“We have to really make due with what we got, but deep down, yeah, it’s the same game deep down,” said senior fullback Ethan Russo.
“To me it’s nothing much besides two less lineman on the field, but either way, it’s just, same rough sport,” said senior center Max Jimes.
The guard or tackle lineman position are the two taken out to play 9-man football.
Culver opens up the season at home September 9th against Weston-McEwen at 7 p.m.