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Mattamuskeet and Columbia switch to eight-man football

Columbia and Mattamuskeet high schools have decided to drop from an 11- to an eight-man football team in 2020.

The two NC High School Athletic Association member schools came to the NCHSAA board of directors in April with the request. After approval came from commissioner Que Tucker, the schools agreed to work together on a schedule.

Mike Cole, CHS athletic director, said his football team numbers for the last two years have been low. “There were twelve guys the last game of the year that were suited up,” he said.

The request for an eight-man team stemmed from a hope that the football program could be revived. Cole said after playing teams like Currituck, who have 50 players as opposed to CHS’s 12, the morale dwindles quickly.

“If they [the players] don’t have hope going into the game, that takes the fun out of it,” Cole admitted.

After passing around a signup sheet for the 2020-21 football season to CHS students, Cole said 15 expressed interest. He then spoke with both the principal and superintendent and suggested they drop down to an eight-man team.

Mattamuskeet athletic director Codey Horton said he also felt that an eight-man team would work well for their small numbers. “We didn’t even have season this year because of the numbers,” he said.

Horton said he had never heard of an eight-man team, but after noticing other local schools make the transition, he felt it would be the best move for the school: “My main job is to do it for the kids and do whatever it takes to play football.”

Horton said that nine games have already been scheduled for the upcoming season. Cole noted that all the schools scheduled to play are similar in size and completion should be better.

“It’s a better opportunity for us short-term, and I believe long-term also,” Cole said.

Cole was excited to see how the players and fans alike adapt to the new setup. “An eight-man football game is a lot faster with a lot more plays. I think the fans will like it.”

Horton said the players and parents seem to be on board with the decision because at the end of the day, “it’s still football.”

“This was an opportunity to keep the lights on Friday night for football,” Cole said. He added that he wouldn’t be surprised if other smaller schools made the transition as well.

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