Sports Spotlight: 9-man football to Class A

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We all know change is a regular part of life, and in high school, football change comes every couple of years in the form of reclassification.

Every two years, high school football teams are reclassified based on boys enrollment. Three nine-man teams from our area are making the leap to Class A football: Shiloh Christian, Richardton-Taylor-Hebron, and New Salem-Almont-Glen Ullin.

Steve Kleinjan has been coaching the Holsteins for over two decades.

"Well this is my 23rd year as a head coach and I've moved up or down six times. You know, I understand it is what is is as far as enrollment goes. I think there are personally better systems out there, but this is the one we have so you just have to roll with what we have right now and take what they give you," said Kleinjan.

Calculating the new divisions is not an exact science and every system has its flaws. Team's on the bubble of reclassification seem to be affected the most.

"It's a complicated process, I'll admit that I mean last year we had 41 kids out, this year we have 32. Nine fewer kids out but we are playing 11 man so that's the way it works I guess," said Kleinjan.

Last season, Shiloh Christian struggled to fill a full offensive line as a nine-man team. In the playoffs, the Skyhawks used All-State Quarterback Jaden Mitzel as a tight end to compensate for the lack of depth. Now, Shiloh Christian needs to find two more offensive lineman in Class-A.

"I'll tell you what, we've had a really good summer in the weight room. Guys worked hard, some of our young guys have really stepped up and ready to step in and play some good football. And for us, we are excited about the 11-man game, extra kids," said Funnon Barker, Skyhawks head coach.

Mitzel spent the summer going to college football camps. Playing quarterback for an 11-man team is exactly what coaches and recruits want to see.

"I think it's great, I think that's something that college coaches really want to see. I think a lot of them will be looking at this senior year because that's the type of defenses he'll see. They want to see if he can make the throws in tighter windows, and I'll tell you what, he's really stepped up to that challenge and I'm looking forward to another good year with him," said Barker.

The Skyhawks and Holsteins play this week. Shiloh's hosting Harvey/Wells County on Friday. While Kleinjan's crew heads to Tioga on Saturday.