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South-side 8-man teams look to make a statement

By Christopher Tenpenny

The Drexel 8-man football team hosted Liberal and Archie where the teams participated in 5-on-5 drills to work on passing Monday at Drexel. Just three years ago, these three teams could be seen doing the same thing except it would have been 7-on-7, the 11-man version. Since the Western Missouri Conference (WEMO) teams made the switch starting in 2019, there has been a shakeup in the Missouri 8-man landscape.

In 2020, there were 30 8-man schools in the state. Only seven schools were located south of Kansas City. Most of the other schools can be found in the St. Joseph area. In the 42-year history of Missouri 8-man, Mound City (8), Worth County (7) and North Andrew (6) account for half of the state championships. In fact, no school south of Kansas City has ever won the Missouri 8-man Sate Championship.

Drexel, Archie and the other southern schools are trying to change that.

“For the blue-bloods up north, some of them have been playing 8-man for 40 years,” Drexel head coach Philip Dean said to the teams after the drills. “But we all know what it’s like to play 11-man football. We’ve gone head-to-head with the Class 2 and Class 3 schools. We know how to be physical and play hard-nosed football. Let’s show them this year that the south is pretty good at 8-man football, too.”

Drexel is entering its third year in 8-man football. All the Bobcats have done in its first two years is win. Drexel has a record of 22-4 during the last two seasons. The Bobcats made the semifinals in both seasons before losing to the eventual state champion.

Archie made the switch in 2020 and had similar success. The Whirlwinds went 10-2 with both losses coming by Drexel, the second of which occurred in the quarterfinals. In its 10 wins, Archie’s closet game was a 22-point victory over Rich Hill.

Participating in summer drills and camps such as 5-on-5 is one of many things each team is doing to prepare for the season.

“We want to give these guys a way to work on their skills so that they are already comfortable by the time practice starts,” Dean said. “We were hoping to pass a little more last season, but COVID prevented us from having this kind of stuff as often last summer. Now, we hope our quarterbacks and receivers have better chemistry to open up the season.”

While the time in 8-man has been short, both Drexel and Archie have gotten the attention of the teams up north. Drexel and Archie were ranked inside the top six for most of the season and look to be threats again in 2021.

Each team has a hump to get over in 2021. Drexel after losing 49-40 in the quarterfinals which also served as the district championship. For Drexel, it will look to get past the semifinals, make a state championship and win it all.

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