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Six-man football is a variant of American football that is played with six players per team, instead of 11.

A six-man football team preparing for play.

Contents

History

Six-man football was developed in 1934 by Chester (Nebraska) High School coach Stephen Epler as an alternative means for small high schools to field a football team during the Great Depression. In 1938, Prairie Lea High took on Martindale High School in the first six-man football game played in Texas and by spring of that year 55 schools were playing the game. This number had doubled by 1939 and at one point in the 1960s there were more than 160 six-man teams in Texas. On October 5, 1940, Windham High School from Windham, Ohio defeated Stamford Collegiate of Niagara Falls, Ontario, 39-1 in the first international six-man football game.[1] Jack Pardee, who played in the 1950s at Christoval High School in Texas is the only known 6-man player to have played or coached in the NFL.

Game play

A six-man playing field.

Six-man is a fast-moving game played on an 80-yard (73 m) long by 40-yard wide (37 m) field (instead of the normal 100-yd (91 m) by 53 1/3-yd (48.8 m) field used in 11-man football. Furthermore, the game specifies a 15-yard distance (14 m) from the line of scrimmage to gain a first down, instead of the normal 10 yards (9 m).

All six players are eligible to be receivers. On offense, three linemen are required on the line of scrimmage at the start of the play. The person to whom the ball is snapped cannot run the ball past the line of scrimmage; however, if the ball is tossed to another player, that player can run or throw the ball and the person to whom the ball was snapped is still an eligible receiver. All forward passes to the player who snapped the ball (center) must travel at least 1 yard (1 m) in flight.

Scoring

Scoring is the same as in 11-man football, with the exceptions being on the point after touchdown attempt and the field goal. A point-after kick is worth two points, while a conversion made by running or passing the ball is worth one point; this is the opposite of 11-man football. In addition, a field goal is worth 4 points instead of 3. These rule changes were made because of the difficulty of successfully getting a kick off with so few blockers on the line compared to the number of defenders. In both University Interscholastic League and Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools competition, a 45-point "mercy rule" exists to prevent lopsided scoring deficits (no such rule exists in the 11-man game). The game is ended under this rule if a team is losing by 45 or more points at halftime or at any point after. The mercy rule is alluded to in the title of the David Morse film about six-man football, The Slaughter Rule.

Six-man football today

As of the 2008-2009 alignments from both UIL and TAPPS, the state of Texas has 183 six-man football teams (127 in UIL and 56 in TAPPS); this does not count schools in other leagues such as Texas Christian Athletic League (TCAL) or schools playing "outlaw schedules" (i.e., schools whose enrollment is too large to play six-man football in a sanctioned district, but nevertheless continue to organize a team). The number of schools opting for six-man football is expected to increase due to 1) declining population in small West Texas towns and 2) newer private schools opting for six-man football as less cost is required for equipment.

The sport is also played by high schools in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico [1] Wyoming and in parts of Canada.

There are also two adult amateur football leagues. One is the Texas Sixman Football Association (TSFA) located in San Antonio, Texas and the other is the Southeastern Christian Association of Sixman Football (SCASF). The TSFA just finished their 10th season with 13 teams vying for their championship and the SCASF just completed their 5th season with 8 teams.

The A-11 offense, now banned at the high school level, can be seen as an adaptation of the six-man offense to 11-man rules, with its wide-open style and the appearance of every player being eligible.

Six-man football in books

In 2005, coach C.H. Underwood authored what is considered to be the definitive strategy and play book for the game, Six Man Football, published by Bright Sky Press. A player during the 1960s and coach of the first Texas State Six-Man Championship team in 1972, Underwood provides a thorough dissertation on the small-town sport from both analytical and historical perspectives.

Another Bright Sky Press book, published in 2003, Grit and Glory: Six-Man Football is a collection of photographs that capture the spirit of the game and its players. Grit and Glory exclusively showcases the work of art photographer Laura Wilson, mother of actors Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, and Andrew Wilson.

Six-man football in the movies

The Slaughter Rule, released in 2002, used six-man football as played in Montana as the backdrop for an examination of the relationship between a fatherless renegade football player and his loner coach. The film contains a brief but adequate explanation of how the game of six-man football is played and the footage of the actual game sequences is compelling. The title refers to a rule in which a game is called in the second half if one team gains a 45-point advantage over the other. In Texas and other states, it is referred to as the mercy rule. When invoked, one team is said to have "45ed" the other.

Six Man, Texas, released in 2008, is a documentary film that explores six-man football as identity in the public high schools of the 160 small towns in Texas that play it.

The Seventh Man, released in 2003, documents two years in the lives of the Panther Creek Panthers, one of the storied programs in Texas six-man football. It features the narration of Val Kilmer.

References

  1. ^ Harris, Colin (2008-04-02). "An all-world salute". Record-Courier (Ravenna, Ohio: Dix Communications). http://www.recordpub.com/news/article/3564932. Retrieved 2008-05-01.  

See also

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