Small schools in northwest to play nine-man game
As often is the case with large-scale decision-making, the realignment of DODDS-Europe football this summer impacted the organization’s smallest members most profoundly.
Seven teams played nine-man Division III football in 2012. Four were assimilated into 11-man Division II football. Another, Italy-based Sigonella, bowed to financial and geographic circumstances and switched to the more feasible sports of volleyball and cross country.
That left two DODDS-Europe football programs with enough players to keep playing nine-man ball but not enough for Division II. The solution: a new entity dubbed the Independent League.
The four-team league corrals Brussels and Menwith Hill into a schedule with Lakenheath’s junior varsity team and U.K. sport academy Woodham. The teams will play nine-man ball, facing each league opponent twice in a seven-week schedule starting Saturday. The team with the best record at the end of the regular season will be declared the league’s inaugural champion.
Here’s a look at the four contenders:
Brussels: The Brigands struggled to a 1-5 season in 2012, earning an Oct. 12 win over Alconbury to avoid a winless season. As the league’s lone team outside of the U.K., Brussels will reap rewards when teams make the longer trip to visit them on the mainland, but face the same challenge when they head for the island.
Menwith Hill: The Mustangs, 2-4 in Division III play in 2012, will trot out a 14-man roster. While small in numbers, the team has real size on the lines. Three of its two-way linemen check in at least 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds. New arrival Jonathon Brugman, a 6-3, 275-pound junior, comes to DODDS-Europe after playing large-school varsity ball in Virginia.
Lakenheath JV: The junior varsity edition of the Division I Lancers will now sit out when the varsity squad plays large-school foes from Germany. The decision helps reduce travel costs. Now only one bus will make those journeys, while the Lakenheath JV tackles local competition.
Woodham: The British sports academy lines up for its first official DODDS-affiliated season this fall. The Warriors lost to Menwith Hill, Alconbury and Sigonella last season.