Springwood embraces eight man football under new coach Joey Burch

Published 9:33 pm Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Springwood is beginning their first ever eight man football season under new head coach Joey Burch. Steve Pardue was originally supposed to be the coach, but he resigned earlier this month.

Burch wasn’t planning to be the head coach this year, but he took on the responsibility.

“She [Kim Baylis, Headmaster of Springwood] asked if I would lead it,” Burch said. “I said that’s not what I signed up for. That’s not what I wanted to do. I hadn’t coached in 10 years. I didn’t want to be in charge of anything. I prayed about it. I talked to my wife and got excited about it.”

Springwood will be moving from AISA 2A to the AISA eight man division. This is the first time in school history they will be playing eight man, but Burch thinks it’s a good move for his program.

“Last year was a very tough season,” Burch said. “It’s not fun for the opposing teams or our team or our fans to get beat that bad. They felt like our numbers would be conducive to be successful in eight man football.”

According to Burch, eight man football won’t be too different from normal 11 man football.

“It’s football,” Burch said. “It’s tackle football. You just removed three people: two lineman and one receiver. You can run every offense and defense. I think it fits us right now as we’re trying to grow the program back.”

The only issue with the eight man league is the inconsistency in field size. Some schools will stick to a 53 yard wide field, and some will move down to a 40 yard wide field.

“As you shrink the field down, that helps you contain,” Burch said. “If not, it’s going to be a very-high scoring game because you have fewer people in a spaced out area.”

At first, Burch and his players weren’t thrilled about the idea of switching to eight man football.

“I thought this was a terrible idea,” Burch said. “Once I showed the players what it was, I said, ‘Hey this is football.’ It’s a little different, but we’ll put pads on and helmets on. It will be high scoring for both teams.”

Despite having several coaches over the last two years, Burch feels like his players trust him to stay with the team and create some stability.

“They went through four or five coaches in the last two years,” Burch said. “I was an assistant coach last year. I think they saw my dedication and passion even though last year went poorly. They can see my excitement. If I don’t die on them, I’m going to be here three or four or five years.”

Springwood has also invested new equipment for their weight room.

Burch originally lived in North Alabama but moved down to Opelika last September. He moved down here to be closer to his family.

“I never heard of Springwood until last summer,” Burch said. “I’ve really enjoyed my last year here. I love our parents, our kids and our faculty.”

Springwood will also use eight man football for their JV team.

The Wildcats will begin on-field practices in July and will play their first game in August.