Chalker to join 8-man league | News, Sports, Jobs

Chalker to join 8-man league | News, Sports, Jobs

SOUTHINGTON — The second Mahoning Valley school has made the leap to 8-man football.

On Tuesday, Chalker was admitted to the Northern 8 football conference and will be a full-time participant in 8-man football starting next season.

This past season, the Wildcats played a split schedule of junior varsity teams and a few 8-man games, two of which were against Sebring.

The original plan when Chalker first restarted the football program as a club sport was to return to varsity 11-man football for the 2024 season, but after weighing all the options, Wildcats coach Justin Kren decided that pursuing 8-man football would be the best course of action. The goal isn’t to just survive year-to-year as a program. They want to thrive and be sustainable and switching to 8-man helps achieve that goal.

With that said, Kren is excited, but still a little nervous for the move.

“I’m anxious for it. We only played three games. There’s a lot of things that go into it, and a lot of things you got to prep for, but I’m excited,” Kren said. “I’m actually looking forward to it. I know my staff and the players are looking forward to a season of not having to prep for an 11-man game and then having to shut that off and get ready for an 8-man game. We’re excited to be in a conference and compete for a conference championship and the playoffs.”

Also admitted to the league was Fremont St. Joseph, a school located between Sandusky and Toledo.

“Our member schools are very excited to welcome the Crimson Streaks and the Wildcats to the Northern 8. The vote to accept these two schools is a great capstone to a very successful season – and allows us to look forward to 2024,” Northern 8 Football Conference Commissioner Joel Miller said in a press release. “8-man football is needed by many districts all over the state of Ohio, and if we can be a part of keeping football thriving in NE Ohio at schools, we are pleased. That’s what this is all about – offering a way to keep teams on the field, cheerleaders and fans cheering their community on and bands making music.”

An obvious concern with making this move is the travel. Outside of Sebring, roughly a 40-minute drive, the rest of the Northern 8 teams are in Western Ohio, closer to three hours away.

It’s a small price to pay when the benefits are so much greater.

When preparing the pitch to the school board to adopt 8-man football full-time, Kren talked with Sebring coach Anthony Agresta, who put things into perspective.

“I think (Agresta) said it best when I talked to him at the beginning of the year when he talked about presenting it to the school board in the community,” Kren said. “He said that we put these kids on a bus and most of the time we do drive about an hour away. Windham is the closest game we got, so we’re going a half hour to an hour and just getting our teeth kicked in. Why shouldn’t we just drive for another hour and have it be competitive? Travel can’t be that big of a factor if it helps us to be successful.”

Kren is hoping that now with two area schools adopting the sport, others may see it as an option as well and the Wildcats and Sebring aren’t the only teams east of Sandusky. Not only will it ease Chalker’s travel burden, but it would create extra competition.

“The schools around us that struggle with numbers, I just hope that they see the good things that are coming out of this and hopefully they’ll make the transition to it,” Kren said. “There’s been nothing but good things that I’ve seen since we started doing it, and (Agresta) has been a great help. I hope some of these schools see the success, maybe they’re struggling in the 11-man route, numbers are low and they see this as an opportunity to hopefully bring some new light back into the program.”

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