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Albany Nears End to Final 11-man Season

The Warriors are making the transition to 8-man football in 2014.
(ALBANY, Mo.) Down to the final conference game of the year this Friday against Polo, Albany's hoping to build some momentum heading into districts.

"You always want to end the regular season on a high note," Warrior head coach Alan Gottula said.

But Friday's game is more than just the end to the regular season. It's Albany's final contest in the Grand River Conference before making the move to 8-man next year.

The change comes from a projected dip in enrollment. The 2012 Warrior football team had 38 players on the roster, but only field 28 this season.

That's fewer than 8-man powerhouses Stanberry and North Andrew.

"You can't graduate 38 and replace them with a class of 28 very long before your numbers start to dwindle," Gottula said. "And that's why the decision was made. It's based on the enrollment projection that this district will have in the future."

Both Tarkio and Rock Port made the switch to 8-man in recent years, and are finding success this season. The Blue Jays are 6-2 this season, and made an appearance in the state semifinal last year. At 5-3, the Indians are one win away from securing a winning record.

The Warriors still face questions before they begin their first season in 8-man. Albany is working to nail down a conference affiliation.

"We're scrambling. We want to get a good solid schedule that will work for our people. At this point we have no firm commitment to a conference, but we hope to have that put together pretty soon."

Albany has a coach in place that will help make this a smooth change. Gottula began his career coaching 8-man football in Nebraska in 1981.

"Having been through it before, you still emphasize fundamentally, technique the same things. But I've been around it long enough to know there's as many people playing as many different styles of 8-man football as you see in 11-man football."

But Gottula and the Warriors haven't forgot what they started in 2013.

While Friday will mark an end of sorts for Albany, Gottula's hoping to start one more 11-man postseason push.

"We're still focused on Polo," Gottula said. "We want to get past those guys. We want to put ourselves in the best position possible for our district playoffs."

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