When explaining my trip, I often run down the list of schools I’m covering. When I let them know I’m going to be in Throckmorton, home of the defending 6-man champion Greyhounds, a common reaction is, “Someday, I’d love to see a six-man game.” The point is, it seems there are a lot of people interested in the 6-man game that have never had the opportunity to see it. I, myself fall into that category, we don’t have the 6-man where I’m from, so Friday night will be my first game ever.
Six-man football is an offshoot of the 11 man-game that is mostly centered in the plains region of North America, from Canada to Texas. In Texas, this version of the sport is played in schools that don’t have the enrollment to field 11-man teams.
The rules of 6-man football are different. 15 yards for a 1st down, there must be a backfield exchange before the ball can be run, (No QB keeps or scrambles) and all 6 offensive players are eligible receivers. Two points for a kick after a TD and one for a run or pass into the end zone.
While the players need the same basic football skills as 11 man football, (blocking, tackling, running, passing and catching), the tactics and strategies for playing offense and defense are completely different. That all offensive players are eligible means there is much less specialization than in traditional football. All offensive players, whether center, quarterback, running back or receiver, must know how to block and catch the ball. All defensive players must know how to tackle and cover downfield. Most will play on both sides of the ball and most of the action is in the open field. This puts a premium on well rounded, mobile kids,, the best players are middle sized kids with great motors who can run well. The game is surprisingly physical,, all the action happening in open field. The strategy is a lot like a violent, padded form of basketball. Defensive strategies have much in common with a zone court defense and the offensive action is so fluid, often two exchanges and all the eligible receivers in so much open field. The scores are also very basketball like, sometimes reaching triple digits.
Throckmorton High School has an enrollment of 63 students. Of the male school population, 4 do NOT play for the Greyhounds. This is a school that values and expects its students to be involved with school activities. The school has a total of 63 students and 61 are involved in at least one extracurricular activity. The busy students miss a lot of class time due to the travel and their events but this doesn’t seem to affect their academics. Last year, of 18 graduated last year, 16 are in college.
It’s hard for me to critique what I see in practice having never seen this game before, but I’ve learned a little during the last two days. When compared to most 11-man practices, the practices at Throckmorton seem kind of casual, but I’ve quickly discovered that, like any good practice, what happens on the 80 yard field is done with a purpose. 11-man teams individualize by breaking down into position groups and having those units work on their skills separately. In 6-man, the skills are the same for all players, so the coaches decide what needs work and practice together.
It’s a busy week in Throckmorton between the homecoming activities and a big bull sale being held at a ranch just outside of town. Friday night will be the first district game between the Greyhounds and the Bryson Cowboys.