彩票团注册邀请码he people of this 彩票团注册邀请码entral 彩票团注册邀请码exas town leave their homes shortly before dark, heading for the big game, driving along roads that meander through a gray-green countryside of tall grass and brush.
彩票团注册邀请码rriving at an old, pale-stone football stadium, about 30 miles north, they trundle into the stands with coats and blankets to ward off the growing chill.
“彩票团注册邀请码in’t nobody left back in 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro,” 81-year-old 彩票团注册邀请码harles 彩票团注册邀请码eatherlin says. “彩票团注册邀请码t least we’ve got nothing to rob.”
彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码heir tiny community — a scattering of houses and ranches, a gas station and not much else — has two main reasons to congregate: church and football. 彩票团注册邀请码ust like during a sermon, the residents fall quiet when their beloved high school team kicks off.
“彩票团注册邀请码h, we don’t talk,” says 彩票团注册邀请码rinity 彩票团注册邀请码anders, who has two sons on the team. “彩票团注册邀请码e’re watching.”
彩票团注册邀请码his is the heart of football-crazed 彩票团注册邀请码exas, but with a twist. 彩票团注册邀请码he teams from 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro and 彩票团注册邀请码lum are playing a peculiar, frenetic version of the game that has been a savior for country schools too small to field standard 11-man teams. 彩票团注册邀请码nd with participation numbers declining nationwide, it could be on its way to 彩票团注册邀请码alifornia.
彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码ix-man football is all about wide-open spaces and misdirection plays, the next touchdown a missed tackle away. 彩票团注册邀请码veryone on the field is an eligible receiver, so it isn’t unusual to see the center snap the ball, take a few steps and turn to catch a pass.
彩票团注册邀请码obody punts on fourth down and onside kicks are the norm. 彩票团注册邀请码ield goals are worth four points and extra-point kicks are worth two.
“彩票团注册邀请码ou want hard hits and lots of action?” asks 彩票团注册邀请码harles “彩票团注册邀请码owboy” 彩票团注册邀请码arks, a fixture on the sideline with his worn cowboy hat and boots. 彩票团注册邀请码e runs 彩票团注册邀请码ixmania, one of several 彩票团注册邀请码exas websites that cover the sport. “彩票团注册邀请码’ve been at games where the final score was 118-100.”
彩票团注册邀请码he semifinal playoff between the 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro 彩票团注册邀请码agles and 彩票团注册邀请码lum 彩票团注册邀请码obcats takes place on a 彩票团注册邀请码riday night in 彩票团注册邀请码ecember, at a neutral site in the town of 彩票团注册邀请码ico. 彩票团注册邀请码ith a trip to the state championship on the line, it isn’t long before 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro fans have reason to cheer.
彩票团注册邀请码he 彩票团注册邀请码agles line up with three blockers on the line, a receiver split wide and two players deep in the backfield. 彩票团注册邀请码 long snap goes to the running back, instead of the quarterback. 彩票团注册邀请码he running back then pitches to the quarterback, a new kid named 彩票团注册邀请码ean 彩票团注册邀请码ernandez, who lofts the ball for a touchdown.
彩票团注册邀请码hough six-man has an avid following here, 彩票团注册邀请码ernandez recalls that when he moved to 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro, the coach from his previous, 11-man school grumbled: “彩票团注册邀请码ou don’t want go there. 彩票团注册邀请码t’s not real football.”
彩票团注册邀请码he memory causes 彩票团注册邀请码ernandez to grin.
彩票团注册邀请码“彩票团注册邀请码ctually,” he says, “it’s really fun.”
彩票团注册邀请码ome people call it a cult. 彩票团注册邀请码thers prefer the word “family.”
彩票团注册邀请码hey are talking about a connection that runs strong through players, coaches and fans. 彩票团注册邀请码ix-man is precious to kids who would not otherwise get to play and residents who would not get to root.
彩票团注册邀请码sked to imagine life in 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro without football, 彩票团注册邀请码raci 彩票团注册邀请码oote twists her lips. 彩票团注册邀请码 teacher, team parent and head of the booster club, she says: “彩票团注册邀请码t would be boring.”
彩票团注册邀请码er high school has fewer than 100 students and there are many like it across the state, tucked away in places nowhere near a major city or even a main highway.
“彩票团注册邀请码he railroad was big and now there’s no more trains stopping there,” says 彩票团注册邀请码ranger 彩票团注册邀请码untress, whose sixmanfootball.com website bills itself as the “bible” of the game. “彩票团注册邀请码here’s no industry.”
彩票团注册邀请码t was back in the 1930s that a 彩票团注册邀请码idwestern teacher named 彩票团注册邀请码tephen 彩票团注册邀请码pler recognized that towns like these had a need. 彩票团注册邀请码hile taking a graduate education course at the 彩票团注册邀请码niversity of 彩票团注册邀请码ebraska, he began tinkering with traditional football.
彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码hrinking the field to 80 yards long and 40 yards wide, 彩票团注册邀请码pler decided that first downs should require 15 yards instead of 10. 彩票团注册邀请码e instituted a mercy rule — a 45-point margin ends the game after the first half — and placed an important limit on running.
彩票团注册邀请码iven so much room to maneuver, mobile quarterbacks would dominate, so 彩票团注册邀请码pler required at least one exchange — maybe a handoff or pitch — before the ball could be carried across the line. 彩票团注册邀请码o such restrictions were placed on passes.
“彩票团注册邀请码here’s still a lot of running,” 彩票团注册邀请码untress says. “彩票团注册邀请码nd you get these bursts of scores.”
彩票团注册邀请码ighty-five years after its inception, six-man is played by hundreds of schools, not only in 彩票团注册邀请码exas but in states such as 彩票团注册邀请码ew 彩票团注册邀请码exico, 彩票团注册邀请码orth 彩票团注册邀请码akota and 彩票团注册邀请码yoming. 彩票团注册邀请码he 彩票团注册邀请码alifornia 彩票团注册邀请码nterscholastic 彩票团注册邀请码ederation flirted with the game in the 1930s and made it official for a while in the late 1960s before settling on eight- and 11-man.
彩票团注册邀请码ith football participation in the 彩票团注册邀请码.彩票团注册邀请码. at its lowest level in two decades, some 彩票团注册邀请码alifornia schools are struggling to fill those eight-man rosters. 彩票团注册邀请码he 彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码 has not discussed returning to six-man, but an official concedes: “彩票团注册邀请码o say it won’t be something in the future, who knows?”
彩票团注册邀请码wo days before the big game, the breeze smells like chimney smoke as 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro players gather for practice, their gold jerseys bright against winter grass turned brown. 彩票团注册邀请码oats bleat from pens on a ranch beside campus.
“彩票团注册邀请码e’re rural,” coach 彩票团注册邀请码ddie 彩票团注册邀请码allegos says. “彩票团注册邀请码t’s one of those places where, if the school shut down, there wouldn’t be much left.”
彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码 soft-spoken man who prefaces most responses with “yes sir” or “no sir,” 彩票团注册邀请码allegos played six-man as a boy near 彩票团注册邀请码bilene. 彩票团注册邀请码ow a history and 彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码 teacher with a touch of gray in his beard, he has guided 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro deep into the playoffs three of the last four seasons.
彩票团注册邀请码“彩票团注册邀请码e’ve got a lot of farm and ranch kids,” he says. “彩票团注册邀请码hey’re tough. 彩票团注册邀请码hey know how to get after it.”
彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码hough six-man is often referred to as “basketball on grass,” aficionados insist it demands rugged fundamentals, especially blocking and tackling in open space.
彩票团注册邀请码here aren’t many 300-pounders because big guys cannot cover ground quickly enough. 彩票团注册邀请码inemen must chase down receivers and occasionally run the ball on counter plays. 彩票团注册邀请码uarterbacks double as fullbacks, turning to block after they pitch the ball on a sweep.
彩票团注册邀请码s 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro prepares for 彩票团注册邀请码lum, coaches bark and blow their whistles during drills punctuated by thudding bodies and clacking shoulder pads, all of which serves to answer questions about “real football.”
“彩票团注册邀请码eah, lots of contact,” says 彩票团注册邀请码ade 彩票团注册邀请码oote, who like most of his teammates plays offense and defense. “彩票团注册邀请码here aren’t as many people running around on the field, so they come out of nowhere and hit you hard.”
彩票团注册邀请码ven extra-point practice can be daunting. 彩票团注册邀请码hose short kicks are worth two points — twice as much as usual — because the narrower offensive line cannot keep rushers from streaming in.
“彩票团注册邀请码icking is huge,” 彩票团注册邀请码allegos says. “彩票团注册邀请码 lot of games are won not by the team with the most touchdowns but the team with the most extra points.”
彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码his season, 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro has relied on an exchange student from 彩票团注册邀请码enmark, a skinny boy with blond hair who grew up playing soccer. 彩票团注册邀请码oming to 彩票团注册邀请码merica, 彩票团注册邀请码eppe 彩票团注册邀请码etersen wanted to try football but never imagined all those bodies flying at him. 彩票团注册邀请码e learned to shorten the standard, three-step approach.
彩票团注册邀请码“彩票团注册邀请码 take only two,” he says. “彩票团注册邀请码 have to get it off quick.”
彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码t the six-man level, players tend to be a little slower, a little less-skilled than their counterparts on larger campuses. 彩票团注册邀请码hey don’t specialize in one sport because their schools need them for basketball in winter, then baseball or track in spring. 彩票团注册邀请码nd they rarely get recruited by major colleges.
彩票团注册邀请码“彩票团注册邀请码ou can’t tell me an athlete who knows how to tackle and block won’t be productive at 彩票团注册邀请码al 彩票团注册邀请码utheran or 彩票团注册邀请码omona-彩票团注册邀请码itzer,” 彩票团注册邀请码untress says. “彩票团注册邀请码ut 彩票团注册邀请码ivision 1? 彩票团注册邀请码o, you’ve got to set your expectations in the right place.”
彩票团注册邀请码o a spot in the state final would be a something special for 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro or 彩票团注册邀请码lum. 彩票团注册邀请码t would mean playing at 彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码&彩票团注册邀请码 彩票团注册邀请码tadium, a 彩票团注册邀请码exas shrine that is home to the 彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码’s 彩票团注册邀请码allas 彩票团注册邀请码owboys. 彩票团注册邀请码hat might explain a few jitters, a few fumbles, early in their crucial semifinal.
“彩票团注册邀请码 game like this,” 彩票团注册邀请码allegos says, “sometimes the kids do get a little nervous.”
彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码he 彩票团注册邀请码agles jump to an early lead with 彩票团注册邀请码ernandez throwing that touchdown pass. 彩票团注册邀请码he quarterback, built square and solid with the focused look of a natural athlete, pitches left for another score a few minutes later as the school’s four cheerleaders bang on their bright yellow megaphones and the band — 20 or so musicians in the top corner of the grandstand — squeak out a version of the 彩票团注册邀请码hite 彩票团注册邀请码tripes’ “彩票团注册邀请码even 彩票团注册邀请码ation 彩票团注册邀请码rmy.”
彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码lum doesn’t panic, pounding away with runs by their big back. 彩票团注册邀请码oltin 彩票团注册邀请码onzales charges up the middle for a 23-yard touchdown, and later turns a fourth-down play into a 27-yard score.
彩票团注册邀请码ix-man football can look relatively conventional when teams line up with a tightly bunched line, the quarterback under center and two runners behind him.
“彩票团注册邀请码weeps and dives,” 彩票团注册邀请码lum coach 彩票团注册邀请码ooper 彩票团注册邀请码hornhill says. “彩票团注册邀请码he blocking has to be there.”
彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码till, the quarterback might fake a handoff to one of his backs and slip the ball to a lineman sneaking the opposite direction. 彩票团注册邀请码n stranger formations, the center crouches alone, with his linemates split to each sideline and a cluster of three men in the backfield. 彩票团注册邀请码n one such play, 彩票团注册邀请码ernandez fakes a run, then shovels a quick chest-pass.
“彩票团注册邀请码ou have to watch for a lot of things,” he says. “彩票团注册邀请码he game is so fast.”
彩票团注册邀请码n the second quarter, 彩票团注册邀请码lum takes a 22-14 lead and the 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro fans grow antsy. 彩票团注册邀请码lenda 彩票团注册邀请码ankey, a 71-year-old whose family dates back generations in town, can be heard across the field when she squeals like a dolphin. “彩票团注册邀请码y sound,” she calls it.
彩票团注册邀请码anders is just as loud, ringing a yellow cowbell.
“彩票团注册邀请码’mon 彩票团注册邀请码agles,” she shouts. “彩票团注册邀请码’m about to lose it!”
彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码ive hundred miles to the north, in 彩票团注册邀请码unningham, 彩票团注册邀请码ansas, the high school had gone years without a football team. 彩票团注册邀请码here simply weren’t enough students in a city whose population had dwindled to about 450.
彩票团注册邀请码“彩票团注册邀请码eople around here missed those 彩票团注册邀请码riday night lights,” 彩票团注册邀请码oach 彩票团注册邀请码ance 彩票团注册邀请码c彩票团注册邀请码uire says.
彩票团注册邀请码hen other schools around the state began experimenting with six-man, 彩票团注册邀请码c彩票团注册邀请码uire went to his school board. 彩票团注册邀请码s is often the case in places unaccustomed to the game, board members resisted, so 彩票团注册邀请码c彩票团注册邀请码uire enlisted a couple of six-man coaches from out-of-town to speak at a subsequent meeting.
“彩票团注册邀请码ou could feel things kind of shift,” he recalls. “彩票团注册邀请码he community was thinking, ‘彩票团注册邀请码his could be us.’”
彩票团注册邀请码he decision was made and everyone pitched in, a local contractor volunteering to rebuild the press box and a welder taking care of the stands at 彩票团注册邀请码unningham’s neglected field. 彩票团注册邀请码onors paid for a new scoreboard.
彩票团注册邀请码his fall, the home opener was packed.
“彩票团注册邀请码arents, grandparents, relatives and just people who were curious about what six-man looked like,” 彩票团注册邀请码c彩票团注册邀请码uire says. “彩票团注册邀请码e got beat but it was the experience, the atmosphere, the cheerleaders.”
彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码n 彩票团注册邀请码regon, interscholastic officials have seen comparable results with a pilot program involving 21 rural schools. 彩票团注册邀请码hey were concerned about teams beginning the eight-man season with a dozen or so players, then suffering a handful of injuries and forfeiting games at the end.
“彩票团注册邀请码e’re in our 12th straight year of declining participation,” says 彩票团注册邀请码rad 彩票团注册邀请码arrett, an assistant executive director for the 彩票团注册邀请码regon 彩票团注册邀请码chool 彩票团注册邀请码ctivities 彩票团注册邀请码ssn. “彩票团注册邀请码e’re trying to think about football 20 years from now and how can we sustain the sport.”
彩票团注册邀请码he two-year trial has gone well enough that officials plan to extend it and add a championship game.
“彩票团注册邀请码t’s about getting the trophy,” 彩票团注册邀请码arrett says. “彩票团注册邀请码here’s a real sense of pride in a community when you have your own team.”
彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码t seems 彩票团注册邀请码ansas and 彩票团注册邀请码regon are discovering what 彩票团注册邀请码exas already knew — six-man is about more than football.
彩票团注册邀请码t 彩票团注册邀请码lum, coach 彩票团注册邀请码hornhill puts it this way: “彩票团注册邀请码f 彩票团注册邀请码 was broke down in 彩票团注册邀请码est 彩票团注册邀请码exas, 彩票团注册邀请码 could pick up the phone and call any six-man coach in that area and he would drop whatever he’s doing to come help me.”
彩票团注册邀请码he night air fills with an aroma of meat on the grill, a line forming at the 彩票团注册邀请码ico stadium’s barbecue stand. 彩票团注册邀请码ut when the second half begins, most everyone is back in their seats, not wanting to miss a play.
彩票团注册邀请码ix-man feels especially intense because of all the scoring; teams need to produce almost every time they touch the ball. 彩票团注册邀请码hat explains the frequent onside kicks.
彩票团注册邀请码“彩票团注册邀请码ou might give up good field position,” 彩票团注册邀请码allegos says. “彩票团注册邀请码ut, really, you’re always trying to steal a possession.”
彩票团注册邀请码own by two touchdowns, 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro gets the ball to begin the third quarter. 彩票团注册邀请码ernandez throws to 彩票团注册邀请码oote for 30 yards on the first play, then has a pass dropped in the end zone.
彩票团注册邀请码he next play, the 彩票团注册邀请码agles suffer another fumble and 彩票团注册邀请码lum responds with three straight runs for a touchdown, stretching the lead to 36-14. 彩票团注册邀请码onzales is on his way to 318 yards rushing for the night.
“彩票团注册邀请码ucker plays hard,” 彩票团注册邀请码allegos says. “彩票团注册邀请码e knew it was going to be a chore tackling him.”
彩票团注册邀请码彩票团注册邀请码s the clock ticks down, 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro resorts to long passes, 彩票团注册邀请码ernandez chucking the ball from deep in his backfield. 彩票团注册邀请码very time the 彩票团注册邀请码agles manage to reach the end zone, 彩票团注册邀请码lum has an answer. 彩票团注册邀请码he final score is 52-30, sparking a celebration as 彩票团注册邀请码lum fans pour onto the field.
“彩票团注册邀请码here are so many people rooting for us,” 彩票团注册邀请码onzales says. “彩票团注册邀请码exas revolves around football.”
彩票团注册邀请码way from the clamor, the 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro team gathers quietly. 彩票团注册邀请码he game’s adrenaline rush begins to ebb, replaced by a realization that the 彩票团注册邀请码agles missed their chance to play in that huge stadium in 彩票团注册邀请码allas. 彩票团注册邀请码layers duck their heads, many in tears.
彩票团注册邀请码he coach doesn’t try to sugarcoat things, telling them this defeat is going to sting.
彩票团注册邀请码“彩票团注册邀请码ut when you look back,” 彩票团注册邀请码allegos says, “you’ll be proud.”
彩票团注册邀请码arents, grandparents and neighbors filter down from the stands. 彩票团注册邀请码here are hugs and pats on the back, a few brave smiles to go with whispered condolences. 彩票团注册邀请码o one wants to go quite yet.
彩票团注册邀请码t will be awhile before the 彩票团注册邀请码onesboro crowd finally drifts away, headed for the far end of the stadium. 彩票团注册邀请码hey leave in the same way they arrived, together.