BETHEL — With enrollments and participation dwindling in recent years, eight-man football has come to additional Maine small high schools this year, including Telstar.

After experiencing declining numbers, the Rebels had dropped from Class D to only a junior varsity program in 2016, before coming back to Class D in 2017.

The variation on 11-man football includes – besides the obvious three fewer players on offense and defense – a field that is 10 yards narrower on each side.  Despite less room to run and pass side-to-side, the eight-man version typically features higher scoring games with a wider-open field in which to operate.  It’s less forgiving for mistakes on defense, with fewer players to back each other up.

On offense, the line of scrimmage has five players instead of seven.

THS Coach Tim O’Connor said the transition to the new format has gone very smoothly.

“When we knew we were going to eight-man football, coaches researched offense and defense to see what other teams were doing in other parts of the country,” he said. “What we found out was that eight-man football is not that much different than 11-man football. Eight-man is better for our small school, because we have substitutes to give players breaks and have some kids play just offense or just defense. As a whole, players and coaches like the new eight-man league.”

They had success in their first home game, defeating Sacopee Valley 36-0 for the Rebels’ first football victory in three years.

Telstar plays in a five-team division (Telstar, Old Orchard Beach, Traip Academy, Sacopee Valley and Boothbay).

Telstar’s Brayden Stevens eludes a Sacopee Valley defender on his way to the Rebels’ first touchdown in a 36-0 win at home Sept. 14. Bethel Citizen photo by Alison Aloisio

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