8-player football is a godsend for Gunnison
Some folks in the Gunnison Valley may not be- lieve this, but I passionately want to see the Bulldogs win at things.
Since relinquishing coverage of Gunnison sports, my focus has been elsewhere, but as a lover of the game, and a naturally curious person, I couldn’t help but switch on the live stream of Gunnison’s first-ever eight-player football game.
We all saw the same thing, a team struggling to adjust to the newness after four days of practicing, then figuring it out in the second half, realizing what their mismatches were, and coming back to win in overtime.
The whole thing brought a smile to my face, but the best part is, it’s just the beginning.
Eight-player is a different kind of opportunity for teams around the state. For some it was the opportu- nity to try something new and start a program; for others, it will be a chance to revitalize. It’s a weird and awkward pill to swallow for many communities, but eight-player football in Gunnison is more than just a new opportunity—it’s a godsend.
More than any other form of competition, I love to see the Bulldogs win at football. That desire comes in no small part because it doesn’t happen often enough for the work these kids put in. In Gunnison’s last 32 years of football, it has won 84 games and lost 224, a .375 winning percentage (not counting their current 3-1 record). Its total number of winning seasons can be counted on one hand.
The secret is out to the whole nation that Utah high school football is incredibly good, and the level of competition has risen rapidly. Teams like Milford and Beaver aren’t just winning games, they’re putting kids on college teams (much love for Bryson Barnes at Utah). Keeping up with it is a sink-or-swim affair, and it’s likely that if teams sink, they won’t have much of a chance at coming back up for air.
Gunnison got the chance with eight-player football. Teams like Rich and Monticello got the chance to restore themselves to former glory, but Gunnison gets the chance to wipe the slate and start over.
Seven teams are playing eight-player football right now, and as currently composed, most people looking at the field, myself included, are seeing that the Bulldogs are something this season they rarely been: The team to beat.
That’s especially true with a victory over perhaps the most equipped squad in the class, Rich. And, yes, there is a state title to play for in eight-player football even in the first year.
Gunnison has a golden opportunity to build credibility right away, being the only team in the new league that legitimately competed in 11-player football in the last few years. They can win right now. They can even potentially win a championship right now.
We already know that St. Joseph’s in Ogden is joining in next year, and Diamond Ranch is restoring its program for next year, too. Based on conversations with members of the Utah High School Activities Association, 5-7 other schools also have interest.
Predicated on the likelihood that eight-player football will be a fully developed classification with 10-15 teams in the next five years, Gunnison will have one of the most experienced and well-estab- lished programs in the class. That’s going to get youth in the valley awfully excited about committing to football in the future.
Right now, the fans and staff of Gunnison football know what they are in this new league: Frontrunners. I can’t stop thinking about the “state championship-contending Gunnison Bulldogs.”