Greenfield High School is dropping to eight-man football because of low participation numbers, leading to fresh concerns among Spring River Valley Conference coaches.
With a suddenly open date on the schedule, league coaches now wonder if their teams can accumulate enough points toward favorable postseason district seedings.
Miller coach Jason Smith, Lockwood coach Clay Laseter and Jasper coach Rich Adkins are mulling whether to keep Greenfield on the schedule and play an eight-man game; or schedule another team’s junior varsity; or settle for a bye week.
None of those options would accumulate points toward Missouri’s state playoff system, MSHSAA spokesman Jason West confirmed Wednesday. An 11-man opponent would be more advantageous. But …
“At this point in the season, it’s so hard to find somebody else who doesn’t have a game,” Smith said, noting that he has offered to pay a St. Louis-area school’s travel costs in order to fill the Aug. 29 slot. The team plays 11-man football.
All three coaches empathize with new Greenfield coach Steve Cole, who has only 13 players on the roster, five fewer than in summer workouts.
Greenfield was competitive five years ago under Jamie LaSalle, now at Marionville, and won a state championship in 1977.
“We feel we can compete in eight-man,” Cole said. “We’re excited, first, just to play football. And with our low numbers, we’re still looking forward to it. Greenfield’s a football town.”
He went on.
“I thought we were going to have everybody, all 18, which is still thin, but we could roll with it awhile,” Cole said.
Pierce City already has dropped Greenfield off its scheduled Friday opener, choosing instead to play Carl Junction’s junior varsity.
Jasper may take the bye week because it would allow Adkins’ team a breather ahead of a season-finale showdown against Lockwood, Adkins said.
“A little bye week is not a terrible thing for us,” Adkins said. “We don’t have a lot of depth as it is.”
Miller is scheduled to play Greenfield in Week 2 on Aug. 29.
Miller: Smith’s team finished 3-7 last year but has 27 players, including eight seniors. Quarterback Jordan Jack returns along with senior lineman Isaac Hill to lead the spread offense.
Jack, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior, combined for about 2,000 total yards and 22 touchdowns. He was a News-Leader All-USA Ozarks first-team selection as a punter last year.
“He’s a heck of an athlete, being so big,” Smith said.
The other seniors are wide receivers Trey Hill, Boby Johnson, Jordan Collins, Garrett Mitchell and linemen Seth Rickman and Forrest Leach.
Lockwood: The Tigers finished 7-4 last season, losing to Marionville in the second round of the Class 1 playoffs. They have 33 players on the team, including 14 letterwinners.
Among the returnees is junior quarterback Ben Schnelle, who threw for about 1,700 yards and rushed for 300 more. The offense includes sophomore running backs Ethan Bates and Kyle Bouldin, senior receivers Thomas Eggerman and Noah Sowell, junior tight end Cody St. John and lineman Janssen Coble.
Linebackers Logan Reed, Robert Raymond and Eric Oeltjen lead the defense, which also includes defensive end Caleb Robertson and tackle Nolan Sparkman.
“Last year, most of these guys started for the first time and it took awhile to get used to playing varsity football,” said Lasater, now in his 11th season. “I’m hoping we pick up where we left off late in the year.”
Greenfield: Cole, who has commuted 45 minutes to the school daily, is optimistic about three seniors: quarterback/defensive back Austin Irwin, receiver Coleman Whitaker and tight end/defensive end Carl Mason. Whitaker placed sixth in Class 1 in the 400 at state last spring.
Jasper: Adkins’ team finished 11-1 last season and fields 37 players. Senior Matt Stump is at quarterback, and the offense has experience in senior running back Jordan Rice, Chet Corle, Kyle Duhmm and junior tight ends Blake Jeffries and Nick Adkins.
Linebackers Tommy Laseter and Austin Gloodt return with plenty of experience for Adkins, now in his third season. The 37 players are more than double from just a few years ago.
“Matt’s been around and knows (the offense), so I don’t have a problem with him stepping in there and playing for us on Friday nights,” Adkins said.
Aug. 22: at Marionville
Sept. 5: vs. Sarcoxie
Sept. 12: at Jasper
Sept. 19: at Pierce City
Sept. 26: vs. Liberal
Oct. 3: vs. Diamond
Oct. 10: at Lockwood
Oct. 17: at Joplin McAuley
Aug. 29: at Liberal
Sept. 5: vs. Jasper
Sept. 12: at Diamond
Sept. 19: vs. Miller
Sept. 26: vs. Lockwood
Oct. 3: at El Dorado Springs
Oct. 10: at Joplin McAuley
Oct. 17: vs. Sarcoxie
Aug. 22: vs. Liberal
Aug. 29: vs. Rich Hill
Sept. 12: at Joplin McAuley
Sept. 19: vs. Diamond
Sept. 26: at Pierce City
Oct. 3: at Sarcoxie
Oct. 10: vs. Miller
Oct. 17: vs. Jasper