This Friday night, the Trumansburg Blue Raiders eight-man football team will take the field for the first time. While there are fewer players on the field this time around, a varsity football team is suiting up in Trumansburg for the first time since 2013.
On top of getting everything together for football following a five-year absence, instilling a new style of play into the team has been a key challenge for the coaching staff led by Julian Munoz. The adjustment has been unique, and fortunately for the Blue Raiders, one of their captains is a senior quarterback, William Lovejoy.
“It’s been interesting. The looks are definitely different with only three linemen in a standard front,” Lovejoy said. “There are just fewer guys on the field so you have fewer options to pass to and fewer ball-carriers in the backfield.”
On the other hand, fewer players lead to easier decision-making for the quarterback considering the amount of open field (eight-man football does not use a smaller field).
“There are no safeties over the top so you can throw it over the middle a bit easier without worrying about defenders,” Lovejoy said. “It just creates more space for the receivers to get open.”
When changing from 11 to eight players on offense, two linemen are removed from the field of play. Senior Daniel Stevens will be one of the three men tasked with protecting Lovejoy on every snap. With a smaller fortress guarding the signal-caller, each lineman has great responsibility
“It’s definitely interesting to not have so many people. I will say, if you are the center, it’s the hardest position,” Stevens said. “You have a guy lined up in front of you basically on you, a foot away, and it just messes with your head non-stop.”
Speaking of responsibilities, the defense has a lot on its plate. Junior captain Dean Sheerer is a linebacker for the Blue Raiders and explained the pressure of pass coverage with the great amount of space on the gridiron.
“We mostly play man-on-man coverage and there are no safeties, so if you miss your coverage and someone’s open, the responsibility is solely on you,” Sheerer said. “It’s nerve-wracking, but you just have to play tight defense.”
While Stevens stated that the offensive line is set to go, Sheerer and Lovejoy added that there are a few things to tighten up still before they’re game ready.
“Mesh points between quarterbacks and running backs,” Lovejoy said. “Mesh points in where the receivers are going to be in their routes and what they’re going to do on their breaks. And on defense just knowing what your responsibility is and your gaps.”
Sheerer also mentioned timing as a key thing to iron out as well as complex offensive plays.
Coach Munoz mentioned special teams as a concern of his leading into the season considering the lack of information on that aspect of the game. While their plan is not done yet, he intends on honing in on punts and kicks in the week leading up to the game.
Lovejoy, though, has seen that special teams are not exactly a big part of the high-scoring play of eight-man football.
“It seems that in eight-man not a lot of teams use special teams a whole lot,” Lovejoy said. “It’s just four downs and you play offense for those four downs. We have been instituting a little punting and punt returning.”
Sheerer added that special teams have fallen by the wayside as the team is prioritizing offensive and defensive preparation.
Ultimately, no matter how many players are on the field, it’s a great feeling for the kids to represent their school once again after playing with South Seneca and Romulus in years past under the name of Tri-Town Titans.
“It feels good. I’m really excited for the Friday night lights back at our home school. That’s what I’m really looking forward to,” Sheerer said. “You build up a really strong brothership with [Tri-Town], but it’s just not Trumansburg. It doesn’t feel as at home.”
That excitement is felt by coach Munoz as well, from both inside the locker room, and around the community.
“The kids are pretty pumped up about it. I think they’re glad to be back home. The ones that did play up at South Seneca are glad to be back on their own field,” Munoz said. “I know the community is really fired up. I can’t go anywhere without talking to someone about football. It’s pretty exciting all the way around.”
Trumansburg football will take the field for the first time since 2013 on Friday, Sept. 20, when they welcome Elmira Notre Dame to Tarbell Field. Expect the bleachers to be full of support from locals who are hungry for the return of America’s game.
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