East Mills will play 11-man football in 2012, 2013 seasons

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

    East Mills football coach Kevin Schafer will have to dust off some 11-man playbooks.
    After five years of eight man football, East Mills is moving up to 11-man football and Class A for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
    “I bet you I threw all those (playbooks) away,” Schafer said. “I assumed we would probably always be eight man. But when we first switched over, I converted some of our 11-man stuff to 8-man, so some of it can be converted back.”
    State classification regulations stipulate a school may stay in its current class if it is below the maximum enrollment for that class in any one of the two years of scheduling. Schafer said East Mills was well above that mark for 2011-2012 but just a handful over for 2012-2013.
    Schafer, who last coached 11-man football in the 2000 season as a coach at Nishna Valley, said he was nervous when moving down to 8-man initially but the coach eventually embraced the change.
    “I’ve been doing eight man so long it’s going to be hard to go back to 11-man. It will be an adjustment,” he said.
    East Mills has been one of the most successful eight man teams in southwest Iowa since  combining from the former Nishna Valley and Malvern School Districts in 2007. On the field the last five seasons, the Wolverines have compiled a 41-12 record and four playoff appearances.
    “We were very close that second year to be able to stay, but, you know, more of our kids will get to play and we’ll see some teams we haven’t seen,” Schafer said. “In that regard, we’re very excited. The coaching staff has a lot of work ahead of themselves because we’ll have to change a lot of things we’ve done both offensively and defensively and special teams, the whole works.”
    Typically, Schafer said, the Wolverines suited up about 30 players a game last season. Most of his team played 11-man in youth football but that was back in elementary school, he added. How smoothly those players transition and depth is developed will decide how successful the Wolverines can be. East Mills has had one of the best passing offenses in eight-man football, throwing for more than a combined 8,000 yards over the last three seasons. So will the Wolverines keep that same aerial attack?
    “It depends on if we can find a quarterback,” Schafer said. “We’ve been able to throw because we’ve had excellent throwers. Jake Bolton was an excellent thrower,  Luke (Schafer) was a good thrower. When I coached 11-man and was the offensive coordinator, we went with whatever our strength was. That’s what we’ll have to do next year.
    “We won’t force a particular system on our kids. We, as a staff, will adjust our offense and defense to the best of their abilities.”
    The Wolverines will open 11-man play at home against Shenandoah on Aug. 24. The schedule includes games against three 2011 playoff qualifiers and three teams that moved down from Class 1A in Logan-Magnolia, Griswold and Underwood. Logan-Magnolia reached the
state quarterfinals a year ago
in the Class 1A playoffs.
    “Logan-Magnolia has been going pretty strong against (Council Bluffs) St. Albert in this area so I’m assuming they’re going to be a Class A powerhouse with the ability to compete for a championship,”Schafer said.
    “Our kids are going to have to put a lot of time in the weight room in the spring and the summer and we’re going to have to improve our depth. We’ll see how it plays out. We’re excited.”