St. Anne's-Belfield School announced today that following the success of the 2017 football season's inclusion of the state's first eight- versus eight-man football games, the School will join six others to create a sanctioned, varsity eight-man football league in 2018. St. Anne's-Belfield will join Hampton Roads Academy, Greenbrier Christian Academy, Kenston Forest, Brunswick Academy, Virginia Episcopal School, and Covenant School in a two-year commitment to the Virginia Independent School Football League.
"When we created last season's hybrid schedule and included eight- versus eight-man games, a lot of other schools monitored what we were doing," said Head Varsity Football Coach John Blake. "There was a lot of interest and talk around what we were doing and it opened some really great conversations that ultimately led to this new league."
In addition to the hybrid schedule that included three eight-man games along with six eleven-man games, the School's 2017 season also included the return of a junior varsity (JV) football team.
"I am proud of all our new and returning players who came out to be a part of the teams, and was pleased with the progress the group made throughout the year," said St. Anne's-Belfield Athletic Director Dewayne Robinson in a letter to football parents in January explaining the decision.
"I also believe that the JV team was a highly important step in boosting our varsity program and, in my eyes, necessary in order for football to remain a beneficial part of the St. Anne's-Belfield athletics program."
Robinson and Blake evaluated the 2017 season in light of the School's goal that the athletics program provide an educational, beneficial, and competitive experience that effectively teaches the School's spectrum of core values while best preparing student-athletes for success. During their evaluation, a number of key components arose: the importance of a sustainable JV program that adequately prepares athletes for varsity participation, effectively preparing a team with low numbers week-to-week once injuries, scholastic commitments, and other extracurricular activities set in, and remaining competitive and productive in a mission-appropriate way as the season continues.
"We made this decision to ensure that our football program offers a positive experience to, and has a positive impact on, our student-athletes," said Blake. "We want to encourage participation and build on our program's success. In becoming a founding member of Virginia's first eight-man league we can do just that."
In addition to regular season play, the league will include a full playoff, all-league selections, and potentially an all-star showcase.
"I'm thrilled that our student-athletes and school have the chance to take advantage of this new opportunity and to be part of history in Virginia's high school athletics arena," said Robinson. "It gives us a new avenue through which we can continue to build our program and join like-minded schools in an exciting new venture."
Up to five additional schools have reported interest in moving to the league in 2019.