New Buffalo is in the process of figuring eight-man football out. The Bison hope to have it down by next season.
New Buffalo has no seniors on its 14-player roster as it prepares for its first eight-man season, but that also gives the Bison a chance to build for the future. New Buffalo was part of a combined 11-man team with Bridgman last season, the South County Cougars, who finished 1-8.
“This is a transition year,” New Buffalo coach Matt Johnson said. “Provided everybody comes back and plays next year, we’re not going to have holes to fill. We have a foundation that we’re not going to lose anybody from for a couple years. It’s going to be a fun two years to see the process out.”
Johnson said that the biggest adjustment has been figuring out schematic changes. The Bison will run a variety of sets, including a spread with three linemen and a five-man line formation.
“What we’re kinding of finding in eight-man is you’ve got to be a little bit of a chameleon,” Johnson said. “Our kids have to be a little more flexible in what they do. A lot of it is predicated on what the defense is willing to give us.”
Sophomore Michael Bombin will be the starting quarterback.
“He’s got that moxie factor,” Johnson said. “He attacks things with a sense of urgency. He’s got a calm, cool demeanor, doesn’t get rattled easily. That’s what you want at that position.”
Sophomore Ben Coffeen will play running back, with sophomore Anthony Lijewski and junior Stephen Margaritis at wide receiver.
Junior Josh Kay and sophomore Ryan Vinson will lead the offensive line. Other linemen include junior Nate Tripp, sophomore Jaden Landess and freshman David Fairchild.
The same group will also man the defensive front. Junior Ben Lijewski will lead the defense from his middle linebacker position. Nick Peters, Anthony Lijewski, Margaritis and Bombin will play in the secondary.
Johnson expects Lawrence to be among the top teams in the Southwest Michigan Eight-Man Football League, which also includes Bridgman, Lake Michigan Catholic, Michigan Lutheran, Martin and Wyoming Tri-unity Christian.
“Lawrence is the standard bearer in our league,” Johnson said. “They’ve been doing 8-man longer than anybody else.”
The Bison are hoping to be competitive in the new league this season.
“We want to win, but we’re focusing on competing for 60 or 70 plays,” Johnson said. “Hopefully if we compete the way we need to, we’ll be in some ball games.”
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