The Crowther Memorial Bantam Badgers football team played their first home game of the season on Sept. 25 and were excited to take back to the field.
The team’s head coach, Justin Stewart, said after discovering a few things to work on in the first two away games of the season, the team went into the game in high spirits and feeling confident.
“We’re feeling pretty good. Everybody knows their plays this time,” he said, lightheartedly.
Of the two games in the season played prior, the Badgers were victorious once and were “badly beaten” in the other.
Stewart added the game has changed pretty significantly for the league this season, as the teams have switched to a new format, which requires a different approach.
“It’s our first year as nine-man so it’s a learning curve for everybody, even us coaches. We had to rewrite a bunch of plays and everybody has to relearn their jobs from their new positions. That’s been the toughest challenge,” he said.
The previous format was 12-man, which according to Stewart, has more players running offense, and more blockers when the team is defending, which in turn means more field coverage.
“In nine-man, you’re losing two blockers and on defense, you end up with more open field so the plays are actually bigger. If you don’t get the blocks because you’re short, the plays just get shut down real fast.”
“It’s becoming more common. Up until this season, there were only a few teams in the league that were playing nine-man.”
Stewart explained in order to play 12 man, you need a minimum of 20 players, ideally having 24 per team to play. This ensures there are spare players on the bench in case of injuries and players are switching often enough so as to not become overly fatigued.
The impact from COVID-19 has seen fewer players taking to the field, as some people simply do not feel safe to do so.
Though skeptical at first, he reported both he, his fellow coach, and the players seem to be enjoying the new format.
“It’s a different game with different challenges and the kids seem to enjoy it a lot more than 12 man because everybody’s getting a little more play time plus more rest time.”
With confidence in his team, Stewart said the boys have come together and have started to mesh surprisingly well for how early into the season they are— something he hopes to use as an asset going forward.
Inversely, he joked that the boys needed to work on their blocks and tackles. This was a point, however, he added they had been working on for the week prior to their home game.
“Teamwork is their biggest asset right now. If one player is having problems figuring out how this works or how his play works, you’ll see three or four of the other teammates helping them.”
The Badgers ultimately fell 40-16 against the Drumheller Titans.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times