Sunday, November 27, 2011

6 Man Football and a Night in Hico, Texas

While played in several states, and developed in 1934 by Coach Stephen Epler of Chester High School in Nebraska, the state of Texas is the epicenter of 6 Man Football. In 2009, there were just under 200 teams who played 6 Man. It is a variation of the 11 man football most of us are familiar with, especially developed for the small schools in rural areas who can not field a larger team. If you are interested take a minute and go to to get a feel for how the game is played. But the unique rules are a small part of what makes 6 Man special.

I took the picture in this article on November 24th, 2011 In Hico, Texas. A small city who's citizens believe that a local named "Brushy" Bill Roberts was, in reality  the outlaw "Billy the Kid". In fact there is a "Billy the Kid" Museum in the heart of Hico. The team in the white is from Lometa, Texas and they are about to kick an extra point as their playoff game against the Abbott Panthers was coming to an end. The kick was successful and it meant the team had just posted a score of 100. The problem is,their Panther opponents had already scored 118. The 218 points tied the highest score recorded in 6 Man but will be ranked second as the Trent Gorillas 132-86 win against the Novice Hornets ended due to the "Mercy Rule" after 3 1/2 quarters. And as high scoring as this match-up was, the preceding game earlier in the evening resulted in a 72-22 Richland Springs win over the Calvert Trojans. That game was called at halftime due to the same "Mercy Rule".

I have not lived in Texas for some time, but about 6 years ago, after going home for Thanksgiving, I began a ritual of finding playoff games I could get to and seeing 2 or three each year. Usually accompanied by sons, son-in-law and grandsons it took me back to a time that I wrote about in an earlier blog. ( At first, I went to Texas Stadium and then Cowboy Stadium and watched the 4A-5A teams play). I even got to see the Odessa Permian Panthers of "Friday Night Lights" fame play once.

Then about three years ago, I decided to head down to a 6 man game between the Walnut Springs Hornets and the Sidney Eagles. (Hornets 66 - Eagles 54). Last year we made our way to Moody Texas and caught a 6 Man double header with the finale being a 66-58 win by the Richland Springs Coyotes over Calvert High School. Richland Springs would end 2010 as the State Champion in their division.

But we found something more than just a high scoring version of High School Football. Three of us made the trip in 2009 and arrived just a few minutes after kickoff and the small stands were packed. Trying to find a spot on the Walnut Springs side of the field, we heard a voice calling to us and some of the fans squeezed together and made room for us to sit. While I had seen a 6 Man game in 1973, the rules were foggy and those around us took the time to refresh our memories as each team zig and zagged up and down the 80 yard field at break neck speed.

In our most recent trip, we arrived only 3 minutes into the first quarter but the Coyotes were already ahead 24- Zip in a rematch of the 2010 nail biter. The game became a laugher and when Richland Springs scored on an 85 yard run with time running out at halftime the game was called. But what happened next could only happen at a small high school football game.

The teams shook hands and players/coaches/ and cheerleaders gathered for a prayer at midfield. And then each team went to their sidelines and watched the 30 member Calvert Band and Drill Team perform. After them, the small Coyote Cheerleading Team did a routine to recorded music. Only after that, was the Regional Trophy presented to the winners.

During all the 6 Man games I have seen, while the players play with true recklessness, they help each other up, give each other quick handshakes after good plays and I even saw one player help pull an opponent's jersey back over his should pads after one play. There is no over the top celebrating after touchdowns (Hell, they are probably too tired anyway) , Probably no future college stars and a lot of pickups with cattle guards on the front in the parking lot. Popcorn is only a buck at the concession stand, and for 3 adults, a 9 and 4 yr old it cost us $22 to get in the gate. The same lady (yes, only 1) who took our money in game 1, was the same lady who took our money for game 2. Kids play around the field during the game and men walk just outside the wire along the sideline like expectant fathers. There seems to be a type of brotherhood that goes with playing 6 Man and the respect the kids and fans seem to have for each other was very obvious.

I'm not sure where we will go next year. The gigantic High Schools of Texas play great football and sitting in a crowd of 25,000 high school football fans is pretty impressive. But more than likely we will head back to see small schools who represent entire communities on dimly lit fields like Hico go at it. It may be 6 Man, it may be 11, but we will go and it will be well worth it.

It was a 90 minute drive back home Friday night. The first game had been over in only an hour, but the second game, with all it's scoring, nearly hit four hours. The two grandsons had played along the sideline most of the night and had conked out shortly after getting in the car. My son-in-law drove home and he, CDog and I talked about the game for a bit. But in the still darkness of a rural Farm to Market Road we began to get back to the reality of getting ready for the rest of the holiday weekend. But Boy - Oh- Boy did we pick a good night to see some football.

There is still time for you this year. This week the 12-1 Newcastle Bobcats take on the 13-0 Richland Springs Coyotes, Friday, December 2nd in Tuscola, Texas at 5:00 PM...... Shell out $22 and get there early!!!!!............... JDaddy


Post a Comment