It's a staple of small-town Kansas that somehow made its way to Lawrence.
Tonight, high school football fans in one of the most tradition-rich prep football towns in America will get the chance to see a slightly altered version of the game of football: eight-man football.
After a season of getting its feet wet playing a partial schedule with no state affiliation, the Veritas Christian football team has a full varsity eight-man slate in 2004, affiliated with the Kansas Christian Athletic Assn.
It kicks off today with a 7 p.m. game against Kansas City (Mo.) East.
The game will be played -- under the lights -- at the Westwick Rugby Complex on County Road 458 south of town.
Veritas is believed to have the first high school eight-man football team in Lawrence history.
Though eight-man is still football, with the pad-crunching hits, the slant passes up the middle and the one-handed interceptions tip-toed up the sideline, it's altered in from the 11-man version.
The field is smaller -- just 80 yards long and 40 yards wide, compared to the 11-man size of 100 yards long and about 53 yards wide.
The scores are generally inflated, too, the result of three fewer opponents -- and three fewer teammates accidentally getting in the way.
"Eight-man tends to be higher-scoring," said Veritas running back Paul Kempf, who spent last year playing 11-man football at Lawrence High. "You break a tackle, and you're gone."
Veritas coach Doug Bennett also pointed out the tendency to rely on both passing and running in eight-man, compared to a common 11-man strategy of running the football almost exclusively.
"In eight-man, you pull your two tackles out, so you lose a lot of size," Bennett said. "It becomes more of a speed game."
Veritas went 4-4 last year, playing a half varsity, half junior-varsity schedule. Though eight-man scores are often huge -- a Kansas State High School Activities Assn. state playoff game last year had an 86-66 final -- Veritas didn't have a ballooned offense in 2003.
Remember, though, that last year was a learning experience. Eight-man is a game that none of the Eagles really knew. Not even Bennett.
"We've got a couple of players that are still going to be new to the game," quarterback Casey Woods said. "But even the new players are starting to grasp it."
That said, the Eagles could be in good shape. They bring solid players to all the skilled positions, including Woods, running backs Kempf and Jesse Schultz, and receiver Mark Randtke, who towers at 6-foot-4.
Kempf often will swing out of the backfield and catch balls, too, making the passing game difficult to defend.
"I think we can run, and we've got receivers," Bennett said. "They're going to have respect all phases of our game."