Welcome Back 9-Man High School Football in Wyoming
It might be a new game for the current generation, but 9-man football is no stranger to the high school level in Wyoming.
The Cowboy State had 9-man games from 1989-94. H.E.M. defeated Midwest, 41-14, in the first championship game.
Lingle won the second in 1990 and out of the six teams that won a Class 1A 9-man state championship from the past, they are the only school competing in that division again. The Doggers are stepping up from 6-man football over the past few seasons.
Other title winners included Midwest in 1991, Burlington in 1992 and 1994, and Meeteetse in 1993. Hulett finished as the runner-up in the last three seasons (92-94) of the prior stint of 9-man football in Wyoming.
Some research into the playoff history unveiled that it was four current 6-man programs, Burlington, Dubois, Hulett, and Meeteetse, plus a current 2A program, Big Horn, were the teams that sustained consistent success at the 9-man level.
As a new stint of 9-man begins in the state, the virus has already hit that classification. Two teams, St. Stephens and Wyoming Indian, from the West Conference, have already canceled their season due to COVID-19. This will leave only five programs in that conference, while the East is slated for seven schools, and yes, schedules have had to be adjusted.
For fans, it will be a slight adjustment from 11-man football. So what should you be looking for at the 9-man level?
Wyoming teams will play on full-size fields, as per the WHSAA, and verified with Associate Commissioner Trevor Wilson. Those are 100-yards long by 53-1/3 yards wide. Some 9-man games are played on the smaller 80x40 field that 6-man games are currently played on throughout the state.
Offenses will typically have a quarterback, two running backs, three linemen (guard, center, guard), and then a wide receiver and tight end on the end of the line, plus another wideout or tight end. Essentially, you’re playing without the tackle positions that 11-man teams utilize. As usual, there are variations to formations. Offenses must have five players on the line of scrimmage at the snap and four in the backfield. There are six eligible receivers at any time. The only players who are not eligible to go downfield are the two guards and center positions.
Defenses usually play with three or four linemen. Some alignments include a 3-3-2 with one safety, while another is a 4-3-2, where the back two are safeties or coverage DB’s. And, yes, there are variations to these basic alignments.
While not quite as wide open at the 6-man game, 9-man football can feature higher scoring contests.
One thing’s for sure, it will be a season of adjustments for the 12 teams that are playing in 2020.
Joining Lingle-Fort Laramie in the East Conference will be Lusk, Moorcroft, Pine Bluffs, Saratoga, Southeast, and Wright.
The West Conference will have Greybull, Riverside, Rocky Mountain, Shoshoni, and Wind River.