Column: Nine-man football means less players, not less talent

With the New Ulm Cathedral Greyhounds dropping to nine-man football this season, some traditionalists may cross their arms and sigh.

But the prospect of a new nine-man football team in the area doesn’t bother me. For years, I’ve heard chatter from critics about how nine-man football isn’t as good as 11-man football, how it’s not as meaningful.

You can take two players from each team off the field, but that doesn’t take away the effort, talent or big plays.

Sure, there are teams in nine-man football that would probably like to play the traditional way with 22 total players on the field. But schools are doing everything they can to keep their programs competitive and alive.

The players still want to play and the coaches want every opportunity to give their players a chance to do so.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a high school in the United States that doesn’t want a football team.

More often than not, nine-man football means less traffic on the field and more points on the board — a real treat for fans wanting to see touchdowns.

Alas, not every nine-man game is going to see a 54-48 final on the scoreboard.

Last year, I attended Cedar Mountain’s homecoming game against Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s and it was a 16-6 final in favor of Cedar Mountain.

Heading into that game, both teams were averaging about 30 points per game. There were some highlight plays on both sides of the ball, but it was a defensive battle keeping the score low.

Not every nine-man game will be predictable, nor should it be viewed as a “lesser” game of football.

The area lost a nine-man team this year after Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s joined with Sleepy Eye Public to form Sleepy Eye United, but the area gained another nine-man team with Cathedral.

I don’t assume Greyhound fans will be any less enthusiastic about football this fall. They shouldn’t, at least.

The drop to nine-man action means Cathedral fans will see the Greyhounds taking on all new competition. They may take some lumps adjusting to a different style of play and new opponents this year, especially drawing a tough Week 1 home game on Aug. 31 with Mountain Lake Area (8-3 last season and 9-2 in 2021), but the new matchups should be exciting.

After traveling to Fulda for a Week 2 game, Cathedral is back home to host Red Rock Central on Sept. 15 in an 8 p.m. game.

Cedar Mountain, which has All-Journal quarterback Cooper Freitag returning for his senior year under center, will host Cathedral in Morgan on Sept. 22 in a Week 4 matchup. Madelia makes the trek to Johnson Field on Sept. 29 for the Greyhounds’ homecoming game.

The Greyhounds then travel to Nicollet to play the Raiders on Oct. 6.

These are all area teams that many football fans in New Ulm know little about outside of what they see on the news or in The Journal, but it’s a good chance to see some new talent and rivalries develop.

Plus, it’s football. What’s not to like?


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