By Don Nelson
The Methow Valley School District board of directors discussed a potential return to 8-man varsity football at Liberty Bell High School during their meeting last week, but took no action on the proposal.
“The board reviewed the memo submitted by Activities Director Michael Wilbur,” Methow Valley Superintendent Tom Venable said in an email. “Aside from a few comments that included appreciation for the inclusive and transparent process, Michael’s skillful facilitation, and acknowledgment of what appears to be strong support to move to 8-man football if a league is formed and post-season play is possible, there was no further discussion at this time and no action was taken.”
Venable added that “I anticipate further conversation leading to action by the board (if required), during a regular meeting to be determined in the new year.”
Liberty Bell High is considering a return to 8-man play, after another losing season in class 2B 11-man competition. This time, the Mountain Lions may be able to join a league and participate in post-season play, Wilbur said earlier.
The Mountain Lions played one season of 8-man football, in 2015, when they racked up an 8-1 record, averaged 53 points per game and scored 70 or more points on several occasions. At the time, however, it was difficult to find nearby opponents, and because Liberty Bell wasn’t in a league it could not qualify for post-season play.
The Mountain Lions returned to 11-man play in 2016, when they had a season record of 2-6. They were 3-6 in 2017. Liberty Bell finished the 2018 season with a 1-8 record (0-6 in league play), during which they were outscored by an average of 30 points per game. Injuries sometimes left the team with a thin bench.
Wilbur, head football coach Bob Bucsko and assistant coach Jeff Lidey earlier met with parents, current Liberty Bell players and past players to talk about the possibility of returning to 8-man play. Wilbur said the emerging consensus was to explore the 8-man option for next year. Wilbur also sought input from the community.
Wilbur said that Bucsko had approached him with concerns about injuries and the Mountain Lions’ depleted roster, and suggested considering the 8-man option.
Wilbur said that several other schools in the region are also contemplating a switch to 8-man next year, and it may be possible to form a new league. They include Pateros, Entiat, Waterville, Soap Lake, Bridgeport and Yakama Tribal.