ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) With some high schools seeing their football turnout dropping, Christian Life is taking the driver's seat by trying to recruit more teams to the newly created Illinois 8-Man Football Association.
IHSA is now recognizing eight-man as an emerging sport and will be keeping an eye on the six schools who have joined to make sure they follow closely to their rules and guidelines.
The Eagles join Alden-Hebron, Westminster Christian, Judah Christian, Lake Forrest Academy and Milford-Cissna Park.
C-Life head coach Bill Shepard, who helped the Eagles transition in 2016, says he is seeing interest on the rise among smaller programs and believes there could be a state title up for grabs as early as this fall.
He says getting away from 11-man has been the right move for Christian Life.
"Back in 2016, we were faced with having 14 kids playing and that's a pretty dangerous number if you're playing 11-man," said Shepard. "It doesn't give you a lot of substitutes. It really wears on you and a lot of injuries happen more when kids get worn out or if they get fatigued. Between practice and games, it puts a lot of pressure on the kids. I think it gave us an opportunity to be able to exist and keep our identity. I think it's been a real plus for our school, our attendance has gone up at games and when we've played some of our rivals, it's been really good."