CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The St. Anne's-Belfield football team had a lot to learn before its first season of Eight Man football last year.   

Junior RB/LB Gabe Decker says, "We were all a little nervous about what to expect, and even questioning, 'What's Eight-Man?'"

The Saints are in a much different position in Year Two.

"Our guys are figuring it out," says head coach John Blake.  "They're coming over and saying, 'Hey coach, this (play) might work, or this one,' and they're really into it."

Senior middle linebacker Joe Ambrosi says, "It's just a quicker game in general.  I think a lot of people sleep on it, but it's a great game.  It's fun to watch, and it's fast-paced.  It's awesome."   
All those rapid-fire touchdowns can make the scoreboard hard to accept.
"Seeing the number of points, definitely as an offensive man, it's good to see," says Decker, "but as a defense, you're kind of questioning your defensive ability."

"I mean, I guess that's just Eight-Man, you know?" says junior RB/DB Amani Woods.  "Offenses score a lot of points.  It's easier in Eight-Man to score points, because you don't have a safety."

The pressure to make stops falls on Ambrosi.

"It's tough, because a lot of offenses are faster," says Ambrosi, "but a lot of offenses in our high school league are more run-oriented, and I'm a big run-stopper kind of guy."

At 6-foot-2 and 240-pounds, Ambrosi is looking to play football in college, and the switch to Eight-Man hasn't scared off recruiters.
"Eight-Man, Eleven-Man, it really doesn't matter," says Ambrosi.  "As long as I'm putting our good tape, and making the tackles, it's all good."
Given the opportunity, head coach John Blake says he would welcome a move back to Eleven-Man, but for now, he's enjoying the unique brand of football.
"Anyone that comes out and watches, I think two things will pop in their minds, yeah, it's a lot of scoring, but it's still football," says Blake, "and it's fun."
The Saints have high expectations after falling in the state finals last year
"Make it back to the state championship, of course, but win this year," says Woods.

Ambrosi adds, "We got a big ol' chip on our shoulder, and we're coming for a state championship.  We got no fear, and we're not backing down."

STAB lost four games in 2018, and all four losses were against teams that went on to win a state championship.