Jun. 11—Solomon Sandoval and Jason Wilson are returning to familiar territory.
Familiar, at least in one way.
When the two former Toledo Christian players take the field for the Northwest Ohio Regional All-Star Football Game at Perrysburg on June 18, they will be doing so in the 11-man football setting.
This is standard protocol for most.
But the Eagles spent the previous two seasons playing the eight-man version of the game.
"I think a lot of people see eight-man as like a 7-on-7 or a lower level game, but to be honest, we run our practices similar to an 11-man," Eagles coach Andrew Skeels said. "Those two going from 8-man to 11-man and back, maybe there's a little bit of an adjustment, but from the football aspects, I think they'll be OK. They have the motor skills, and they love to compete. I think they'll transition very well."
Eight-man football became a reality for Toledo Christian's program prior to the start of the 2019 season.
They are a charter member of the Northern 8 Football Conference, which began conference play in 2020.
The most noticeable differences are, no surprise, three fewer players on each side of the ball, and a field that is 80 yards goal line to goal line and 120 feet sideline to sideline.
Those differences required adjustments. Sandoval said he found the field spacing on offense immediately noticeable.
"I would say it was easier for me on offense, just with the room," he said. "On defense, it's harder sometimes to make a one-on-one play with a shiftier athlete. Sometimes it's a guessing game, because you're the only line of defense against a guy getting 50 yards or a touchdown."
Wilson, a tight end and offensive lineman, said speed is the name of the game.
"In eight-man, you have to be faster than in 11-man, or else you won't do well," Wilson said.
Sandoval was a first team All-N8FC on offense and defense, and Wilson a first-team defense selection following the 2020 season.
Sandoval was a do-all for the Eagles offense, rushing for 314 yards on 17 carries (18.5 yards per) and catching 50 passes for 837 yards (16.7 per catch) and 22 total touchdowns. He also converted 14 PATs as the Eagles' kicker.
"When He got into the open field, he got into the end zone most of the time," Skeels said. "He's a competitor where he wants to fight for extra yards and touchdowns. He's a little guy, but he gets down and runs really well."
Said Skeels of Wilson: "Offensively he's a really sound blocker, and he does really well at running routes at tight end. He does really well for us in that aspect. Defensively he's got a motor."
Sandoval and Wilson played 11-man football for half of their respective high school careers, so going back to the format isn't a completely foreign idea to either.
"I'm just looking forward to having fun, making new friends and getting out there to play football one last time," Wilson said. "It's going to be a fun experience, and I want to show that eight-man football should be taken seriously, and it's legit."
Sandoval and Wilson agreed on one thing: It's still football.
Even in a regulation-sized field and with going back to the traditional format, the game is the game.
"I'm thinking about what space I'll be in," Sandoval said. "I'm thinking of, will I be crowded? On offense I'm thinking of the space I'll be given or how I'm going to run my routes or how will I feel on a 50-yard field again. It's all football. but I'm still thinking about that."
First Published June 11, 2021, 10:30am