Posts Tagged With: Throckmorton

Throckmorton vs. Abbott: 6-man Division I Championship

12-15 Cedar Hill, Stamford and Throckmorton 095

 

I had two big issues when covering the Throckmorton Greyhounds for this blog. First, from a football standpoint the six-man game, while very interesting, is kind of alien to me. The rhythm, strategy and mentality are completely different than the 11 man game. Even though I did spend a week with them, I never got used to the sight of so few players on the field. That said, nobody who knows how to read a scoreboard or understands what a touchdown is could watch the Throckmorton Greyhounds and not know they are far and away the best team in the 6-man DI division. They proved that Saturday night, handily defeating the Abbott Panthers 72-30 for their second straight 6-man championship. Leading 40-24 at the half the Greyhounds quickly put this game away after a touchdown, an onside kick, another touchdown, a fumble and a 3rd touchdown, put T’rock up 64-24 with 4 minutes to go in the 3rd. The only drama left was whether Abbott could play a full quarters holding off the 45 point lead that would have ended the game. A touchdown and a slowdown offense in the 4th allowed the Panthers to save face and finish the game falling to the Greyhounds by a final score of 72-30.

The second problem that I had was that while I could see multiple playoff games in the metroplex or in Houston, all the six-man playoff games were played in West Texas, putting me in a position where I would have to forgo seeing my other teams or just seeing the Greyhounds. This is why I missed the 1st half last night. I left Waco and the Cedar Hill game and drove as fast as I could to get to Abilene and catch as much of the T’rock game as I could. I’m happy I made it in time to see the ‘Hounds get their championship medals and trophy. Winning a championship takes a tremendous amount of work no matter how much talent your team has and it was nice to see these people I spent time with celebrate a successful end of the season. Congratulations to the Greyhounds, it was a pleasure seeing you again, if only for a few minutes.  Like all the teams I’ve covered, I have a lot of respect for the people involved with Throckmorton High School and the Throckmorton football program. They are where they are because they do things right.

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Cedar Hill-Denton Ryan, rant about the state of the game and 8 minutes with T’rock

 

Cedar Hill advanced to the third round yesterday, on a perfect day for football at Dragon Stadium in Southlake, outlasting Denton Ryan, 48-35. It was a very entertaining game and, as always, I’m just amazed by the talent I see in Texas and 5A football in the metroplex takes the usual Texas talent to another level.  Ryan had no answer for the Cedar Hill offense. On the ground and through the air, the Longhorns scored quickly and almost every time they touched the ball. I’ve had the pleasure to watch this team three weeks in a row, and each time they have looked a little better on offense. They seem to be clicking at the right time and they look like a very confident group. Cedar Hill took a 14-0 lead before the Raiders ever touched the ball; recovering an onside kick after scoring on their first possession, the ‘Horns quickly scored again.  From there it was a track meet with both teams trading touchdowns. Ryan scored on some broken coverages and several trick plays to stay in the game until the final minutes. In the end, Cedar Hill’s defense made three stops, one in the first half and two in the second, and that made the difference.

The win sets up a third round game between Cedar Hill and Arlington High next Saturday.

As entertaining as all the football was this weekend, I’m not sure about the current trend of the game. This was the second game in a row I saw WITHOUT A PUNT. Not that anyone gets excited about watching punts, but the balance between offense and defense has gotten out of whack.

Football has always been kind of a pendulum between offensive and defensive tactics.  Offense coaches find new ways to move the ball down the field, other coaches copy those methods and scoring goes up. Defensive coaches than come up with new ways to attack the offense, coaches’ copy and scoring goes back down.

The problem is, nobody has yet figured out a consistent way to shut down the spread. This offense spreads the field vertically and horizontally, simplifies assignments, gives the quarterback the ability to take advantage of mismatches and puts the best athletes in open field where defenders have to make decisions that can never be right. Play aggressive and this offense will kill you with screens, hang back and the quarterback will have time to pick apart your coverage and find a receiver. ‘Backers read keys and the QB reads (options where the QB can either hand off the ball or pull it out and run.) will blow up. I don’t have an answer, it will take a defensive coach a lot smarter than me to come up with the next big evolution and I don’t see it on the horizon.

After the game I drive to Early, about 2 hours southwest of the Metroplex, hoping to get there in time for the 2nd half of the Throckmorton game against undefeated Water Valley. Fortunately/unfortunately this game was, unexpectedly, a blowout. Throckmorton was up, 46-8 when I arrived at the half. The mercy rule ended the game a few minutes into the 3rd quarter as the Greyhounds won 62-16.

I’m going to be tying up loose ends in West Texas; then to Wichita Falls on Thursday for Stamford- Quanah in their 1A game. Stamford has been playing very well; I’m looking forward to seeing them again. From there it’s down to Houston to see La Marque play the undefeated and top ranked team in the 3A, Navasota. This coming Saturday will be a tough decision; Cedar Hill-Arlington and Abilene-Hewitt Midway are both in the metroplex and at the same time. I hate to miss either one of them. Also have to miss Carthage and Throckmorton again. Hopefully they all will keep winning and keep giving me tough choices to make.

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Throckmorton vs. Bryson

I saw my first six-man football game, or at least three quarters of one. One of the many unique things about this game is the mercy rule. When one team goes up by 45 points the game ends. With so much open field and so few players to cover it, the six-man game is very much about individual matchups. The superior team with 6 quality players will most often overwhelm a team with weak spots, so very lopsided scores are the rule and many games don’t go the distance.

Friday night at Throckmorton, the Bryson Cowboys came with a plan to control the clock and grind the ball down the field. This worked early with two long drives limiting the explosive Throckmorton offense to three plays and the Cowboys took a 16-14 lead. But the plan had two flaws;

1)       Bryson had several good linemen types who would have been at home playing guard in the 11-man game, but they didn’t have the athleticism to change gears once the Greyhounds shut the power run game down

2)      Bryson could do nothing to slow down the Greyhound offense.

Throckmorton scored 9 touchdowns on the first 15 plays in the 1st half. Through the air and on the ground they dominated every facet of the game. The downfield blocking was scary. In Texas, unlike the rest of the country, blocking low in open field is legal. This technique has a strong impact on game-play across the state, but none of the 11-man teams I’ve seen use it as effectively as Throckmorton.  Greyhound players threw themselves into the legs of Bryson defenders, often rolling up two or three Cowboys on a single play. The quickness and precision of the T’Rock offense was amazing to see and showed why the Greyhounds are an elite team.

Bryson managed to score once in the second half delaying the inevitable, but two quick Throckmorton scores ended the game, 74-29, early in the 4th quarter.

From my limited perspective, there are two factors leading to the success at Throckmorton.  While this is a very different animal than the 11-man game, what makes a team do well is really the same.

Throckmorton has players who are very well suited to this game. The optimum 6-man player is an outside linebacker/tight end type, big enough to deliver a shot, but agile, quick and with great endurance. The ten varsity Greyhounds fit this mold very well. Receiver/DE Gary Farquhar is being recruited by Texas Tech and had an outstanding game, but the other players all seemed to outmatch their counterparts as well.

The second factor is the program itself. A quality coaching staff with a comprehensive and deliberate philosophy, kids who buy into this philosophy and a community that expects success and supports the program sums up Throckmorton and every other stop I’ve made. True, the game is very different, but football is still football and the bottom line needs are the same.

Coach Reed and his staff run a great program, from the X’s and O’s to the value lessons they teach through football, there is a purpose to all they do. The kids have clearly bought in. They respect the coaches’ knowledge and play the game the way they’ve been taught. And finally, the town of Throckmorton comes out and supports this team. As I’ve heard several places I’ve been, “If you’re a thief, Friday night would be a good time to rob the place, everyone’s at the game.” Throckmorton has under 1000 residents and the home stands were full. There couldn’t have been many Throckmortonians anywhere else Friday.

It was a different week, but a very interesting one. I got to see a bull auction (a Red Angus sold for $70,000), take part on a gameday raffle for a shotgun (guess I didn’t win, still waiting for a call) and see a version of football you don’t see many places. I want to thank the coaches the kids on the team and everyone else I talked to for being so open and welcoming. I enjoyed my week there and look forward to following the Greyhounds the rest of the way.

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Week six: Throckmorton Greyhounds

 

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.

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Throckmorton

For the past three years Throckmorton have conducted their first padded practice at midnight. This has turned into a community event with a BBQ, a pre-practice ceremony and fireworks. Around 100 locals were in the stands at midnight, Friday morning to see the 2012 Greyhounds padded up for the first time.  26 players were dressed out, very impressive for a school with only 58 students.

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This was my first ever experience with the 6-man game and I realized right away that my 11-man knowledge meant very little. Some rules are somewhat similar; 15 yards for a 1st down instead of 10. 3 must be on the line of scrimmage instead of 7.

The big differences; all six are eligible receivers and an exchange must be made before the ball may be run (QB cannot run ball) make all the difference in the world. Unlike 11-man, 6ers must all know all fundamental football skills. Every defender has to be able to cover downfield as well as tackle and all offensive players have to be able to catch. Even passing is less specialized than in 11-man as all three backs are regularly called on to throw the ball.

From a coaching standpoint this means individual periods include all the same skills. Where a 11-man O line coach would never teach his center to catch passes, a six man coach must. The 6-man player must be well rounded, like a basketball player must be able to shoot, dribble, pass and play defense, all 6ers must block, tackle, catch, run routes, defend downfield and take on blockers.

The collisions are much more wide open. Every play looks like a special teams play in 11-man ball. With so much field and so few players most everything is done out in the open.

I’ll admit I’m at a little bit of a loss to critique the play, having never seen this game, but Throckmorton looked well coached and prepared to me. They have a good amount of kids I would think would be the optimum size to play this game; big enough to make an impact but small enough to be mobile. The kids were very willing to be coached and the coaches were obviously very knowledgeable about the game. Coach Reed set a good balance of being tough while also being positive and the players responded well.

Everybody was very friendly and it’s apparent that the people of Throckmorton take great pride in their team, their school and their town. I’ll be back in early September for the week of the homecoming game against Bryson.

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Three towns, five practices, 26 Hours and around 400 Miles

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Outside Throckmorton last evening, Longhorn cattle in front of an oil rig. Can you get much more Texas than that?

 

I woke up yesterday morning at 6:15 to attend the two practices at Carthage. At one PM I hadn’t yet decided where to head. I made a call to Coach Reed at Throckmorton and he told me they were going to practice at 6, have a BBQ and then get back on the field at midnight, for the first padded practice of the season. I looked at the GPS and realized I could just about cover the 300 plus miles by six and hit the road. I got to Throckmorton around 6:30, watched the end of the first practice and visited with Coach Reed then went to bunkhouse on one of his players’ ranches, he had arranged for me to sleep at. Back in town by 10 for the BBQ, before the midnight practice; watched the practice and back to the bunkhouse to sleep sometime before two AM. Got up at 6:15 and drove 50 miles to Stamford to see their first padded practice at 7:30. Then 50 miles or so to Abilene, to a hotel and a much needed nap. I got up this afternoon and am just starting to process the notes video and pictures I gathered during my lost three stops. Think I’ll stay put tomorrow. Look for forthcoming updates on what I saw in Stamford, Throckmorton and Carthage.

 

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