Football is football! When you step out of the locker room door and see the lights reflecting off a blanket of green, butterflies start a merciless dance in your stomach. The Fall air hits you with the smells and sounds of football. Whether 6 or 60, we all need that opportunity to come together for an experience bigger than one person could have on their own. There is no feeling that can replace the joy, the disappointments, and the pride that only comes from a hometown football game.
In 2016, the small school of Pawnee Heights decided to bring back football to their community. The Rozel, Kansas field had not seen a high school game since 2011. Some high schoolers had been traveling 15 miles to play with a neighboring school during that time period but many did not. Like any new season with a new coach there would be a big learning curve for everyone. I had to get to know a new community and my players had to get to know my philosophy as a coach. In addition, we all had to learn the game of 6-Man football.
What 6-Man football is
In 6-Man football, the Quarterback can not carry the ball across the line of scrimmage unless the ball is handed to another player and then given back. The person that is designated by a team to take the snap may not be the true QB. That person can pitch the ball to the other running backs. The player that receives that pitch then has the opportunity to run or pass the ball. It is beneficial for a team to have 3 players in the backfield that can run or pass. This makes you more of a true triple threat. Every player on the offensive side of the ball is an eligible receiver. The big offensive linemen are just as eligible to receive a pass as the speedy running backs. This makes the game more competitive. You now have to be aware of every player on the field. In a small school with limited choices for players, this gives you the opportunity to capitalize on every player’s strengths.
The football field is the same as an 8-Man field, 40 yards wide by 80 yards long. You are required to go 15 yards instead of 10 to gain a first down. With less players on the field, having to go 15 yards for a first down makes for a greater challenge. Conversions and field goals are different as well. If you kick an extra point you are awarded 2 points. If you run a conversion then you are only awarded 1 point. Field goals are awarded 4 points.
With all the differences associated with 6-Man, the fundamentals remain the same. You still teach players to run, pass, catch, and tackle just like any team in the state of Kansas!
What 6-Man football isn’t
The game isn’t a slow game. The more speed a team has, the more successful that team can become. It isn’t about having the Alabama type offense or Ohio State defense playing smash mouth football but about speed, speed and more speed. It usually isn’t a low scoring game either! Games can be 58-56, 118-85 or 42-40, but seldom do teams every win a 6-0 game. 6-Man football isn’t an easier game to play. Most players have to play both offense and defense, as well as special teams. Players seldom have a break during the game. 6-Man football isn’t about platooning. It is about player endurance.
Why we need 6-Man football in Kansas
As communities fight to hold on to tradition in a time where more seem to be moving out than moving in, 6-Man football fills some obvious gaps. In the football atmosphere, small schools are able to continue to represent their hometown. Players can be proud of the name on front of their jersey. Even though some schools will have to co-op to remain open, we are banking that 6-Man football in Kansas will grow allowing kids to keep that jersey. We are expecting to have 24 schools involved over the next few years. This will lead to KSHSAA adopting it as a sanctioned sport. It can be anticipated that from year to year teams might have as few as 8 or 9 kids out, but playing 6-man means still having players on the sidelines. Tradition starts with those elementary kids playing on the practice field during games. They experience the rush of fans in the stands, the hype of a new season and having your own lights come on Friday night. The field is my sanctuary. The sound of an off-key band and rumbling crowd is the music of my soul. 6-Man players put their pants on the same way as every other kid in Kansas on a Friday night, one leg at a time!
By Jeff Chambers