The third in a three-part series examining the growing number of northern Michigan schools sponsoring 8-man football. Today, we look at the Midwest Central Michigan 8-Player Football Conference and its 2017 expansion.
BRETHREN – As the landscape of 8-man high school football continues to grow across Michigan, so do the leagues that support the sport.
Founded in 2016 in part by the efforts of Brethren athletic director Jason Kemler, the Midwest Central Michigan 8-Player Football Conference is one of those leagues expanding in 2017.
The league is currently one of seven supporting 8-man football, and with the addition of Atlanta, Baldwin and Hale to its lineup, is joined alongside by the Bridge Alliance Football League as the two biggest conferences in the state with 10 members each.
The league’s inaugural lineup featured Forest Area, Grand Traverse Academy, Manistee Catholic Central, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian, Marion, Brethren and Big Rapids Crossroads. Conference champion Tri-unity and Forest Area both reached the postseason this year, with the Defenders making a run to the state semifinals.
“What’s nice about the league is that all the schools are the same size,” Kemler said. “There is still an interest in playing football by our students. It was hard playing some of these larger schools, because it was dangerous and games were no longer competitive.”
Hale joins the conference after spending the previous two seasons in the Mid-Michigan 8-Man Football League, while Baldwin and Atlanta recently approved the transition from the traditional 11-man game.
“The first year was a learning experience for us at Brethren, Kemler said. “The 8-man game has different strategies and different concepts. I think there was a bit of hesitation at first from our school, but they’ve grasped the conception and realized that this is still football we’re playing.”
Kemler says he anticipates further expansion for the league.