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The Edina Sentinel has learned that what is best described as preliminary discussions have been held in the Knox County schools of changing from the present 11 man to 8 man football beginning as soon as the 2021 season.
Several things are very important to point out at this time. Knox County is currently preparing to play their scheduled 11 man football slate for the current 2020 season. No final decision has been made that this reporter is aware of.
Knox County Superintendent of Schools Andy Turgeon told the Edina Sentinel after the 2019 football campaign that public, patron, faculty and student body input will be sought before a major move such as changing a varsity sport.
The process would be similar to when the Knox County District considered moving to a four day school week a couple of years ago. The Edina Sentinel would be notified if such a process was soon going to be started. We have not received such notification as of August 7, 2020.
Sentinel Editor Echo Menges told this reporter that she has heard the possibility of moving to 8 man football mentioned in at least two Knox County R-I Board of Education meetings.
Everyone this reporter has talked to connected with the Knox County school district and their football program said they would prefer to continue playing 11 man football as the district has since the Knox County R-I School District was formed in 1963.
Public school enrollment has declined over the past several years. There are multiple reasons for the decline including a lower overall birth rate and a trend of young people leaving the area after high school graduation.
According to Knox County football coach Bruce Vannoy, Knox County will enter the 2020 season as the fourth smallest 11 man football school in Missouri. The Eagles have competed in Class 1, the smallest 11 man football enrollment classification for at least ten years and no doubt more.
Knox County has plenty of experience in that distinction. The Eagles have been the one of if not the smallest Class 2 baseball programs in the state for many years.
Knox County currently has a listed enrollment of 96 students in grades 9-11 according to the Missouri State High School Activities Association. A change was made from counting grades 9-12 several years ago.
Knox County has a projected 130 students for grades 9-12 this school year.
A reported seven Missouri school districts have adopted 8 man football for this season. Six schools went to 8 man before that. Lewis and Clark Conference member Schuyler County will play 8 man football this year and during the 2021 season.
Rams administrators told the Edina Sentinel during the 2019-20 basketball season that declining enrollment and projected football interest from the student body were the driving forces behind the move.
Schuyler County Superintendent Steve Carvajal told the Edina Sentinel at the time the move was announced that their intention was to play 8 man football for two years and go back to 11 man when there were projected to be more boys available in their district.
Two stories were published in the Edina Sentinel reporting the Schuyler County move.
The district has seen about the same percentage of boys go out for football in recent years as for the past ten years. The issue is there are fewer boys to choose from. The district has averaged around 3 freshman football players during the last three years.
Coaches are concerned that they may be putting their athletes in a position to fail rather than succeed when low football numbers cause them to put players in varsity games that are not ready to handle that role.
The landscape of Missouri 11 man football is changing. Monroe City is projected to drop from Class 2 to Class 1 when the next two year enrollment cycle is announced. There may be even larger and just as successful long time Class 2 football programs drop to Class 1 due to overall population and enrollment declines.
Couple that with more schools deciding to change to 8 man football. Keytesville and North Shelby are other schools currently playing 8 man football along with Schuyler County within an hour and a half drive from Knox County.
As a reporters note, there was careful consideration given to the timing of this story. I regret not being able to get this news into the Edina Sentinel last week before fall sports practice began on August 10, 2020. We felt it was important to follow good journalistic practice, reporting facts now widely known in the community.
This reporter was told the current Knox County team and their coaches want to concentrate on preparing for and playing the 2020 season, present conditions allowing. We intend to honor that request. There will be no further discussion of a possible change coming from David Sharp until the end of the 2020 football season.
This reporter does not intend to comment to fellow journalists for publication on what can be a divisive and distracting subject until Knox County is finished with their 2020 season.
We also intend to cover Knox County Eagle football during the 2020 season as has been done for more than 30 years. That coverage will begin as one of a series of stories our coverage area schools has done to prepare for the upcoming year despite a very challenging national and community environment related to Covid-19 Virus reaction.