KINGMAN - A new era for Kingman Academy football and the Charter Athletic Association begins this fall when the league starts an 11-man football division.
The decision was made official at the spring football meetings on April 18 and has been in the works for several years, dating back to when CAA executive director Randy Baum first introduced football to the CAA.
"It has been one of the goals," Baum said. "I had a three-year plan to build it to an 11-man division and that didn't work out last year. We tried with several different scenarios and we couldn't get it to work out. This year I finally got enough commitment from several different schools and I just went with it."
One of those schools that jumped on board was Kingman Academy. KAHS athletic director Shawn Byrne was a vocal supporter of the 11-man concept at the April meeting.
"As soon as the idea came up, I was very excited about it, and I still am," Byrne said. "I think for the league and Kingman Academy, it's the step in the right direction and an opportunity to grow."
Since only six schools are on board with 11-man football, the CAA is going to play a 10-game schedule with each team playing a home and away. The top four teams advance to the playoffs.
"It's a different type of format," Baum said. "There are some people on the outside looking in who are probably asking, 'Why would you do that?' It's really just to get the program going and take CAA football to the next level."
According to Baum, one of the main reasons to move from 8-man to 11-man was complaints by some coaches who said their kids were having a hard time getting college offers because they were not playing 11-man football.
"The league is always interested in making sure that the student athletes can play on a field that is going to get them recognized," Baum said. "If 8-man football is not getting them recognized enough, then let's do 11-man football and the schools that want to play it, let's get those kids out there and try and get them recruited."
Baum has never seen any hard evidence that college football coaches tended to shy away from kids playing 8-man football, and former KAHS football coach Eugene Kramer said that he had no problems getting his kids looked at by colleges.
"I don't agree with that at all," Kramer said. "I think if a kid is good enough to play college football, they are going to be found no matter where they are playing.
"If the kid is good enough and the coach is doing his job, then the kid is going to be found."
Byrne echoed the same sentiment, saying that it is hard to provide evidence that 8-man football players are at a disadvantage. There are KAHS players being looked at by schools despite playing 8-man, he said.
"It's an interesting argument, but it's one you can debate back and fourth and never come to a conclusion," Byrne said. "We are having Johnny Herrero being looked at. They don't care that he plays 8-man football, they care is that he's 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds."
Ultimately, what Baum expects to see is a few more teams playing 11-man and the rest of the schools sticking with 8-man.
"Probably next year at this time we will have two or three more schools that have 11-man football teams," he said.
One of the reasons to have 8-man in the first place revolved around numbers and schools having the ability to field teams with enough players so they could scrimmage when they practiced.
Another issue facing Baum is that not all the bigger schools that should logically be on board with 11-man, such as West Phoenix and Mesa Heritage, have made the change.
"I was hoping they would be part of the 11-man this year and they just didn't want to do it," Baum said. "I couldn't go around and say, 'You have to play 11-man football.' That is something that as we get going further that we are going to look at and say, these schools in this classification, they need to play 11-man football."
While this new era will usher in some changes to KAHS football this fall, the biggest change fans could see is the strength of the competition. Last year the Tigers outscored their opponents 539-162, this year with 11-man, Baum feels that could change.
"You are probably going to see some closer games, most definitely," Baum said. "In 11-man I don't see a single team that is going to be weak. I think all the games are going to be competitive."