Playoffs have started in Texas, with teams as big as Southlake Carroll playing their first rounds in venues like AT&T Stadium and the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, or brand new McLane Stadium in Waco. When In Texas, however, visited a town whose population of 534 would fit almost 150 times in either of those venues.
The Jayton Jaybirds and Guthrie Jaguars played instead on a field twenty yards shorter and ten yards more narrow than most other fields in the country. They also played with ten less players on the field at all times. Jayton, Guthrie and over 100 other schools in Texas play six-man football, a fast-pace, high-scoring variant of the traditional game designed for schools whose enrollment numbers make it impossible to field an 11-man team.
Six-man football was invented in Nebraska in 1934, with the UIL adopting the variant for official competition in Texas four years later, with 55 schools competing that year. Today, there are over 130 public schools participating in UIL competition, along with over 50 private schools in other leagues. While Jayton and Guthrie are among those that have played six-man football almost their entire existence, many present-day powerhouses in higher classifications got their start playing six-man in the 40's and 50's. Katy and Pearland, perennial 6A title contenders out of the Houston area, only fielded six-man teams in their early years, along with Friendswood, Cooperas Cove and more.
The number of six-man football players who go on to play Division I college football is very small, while former six-man players in the NFL are almost unheard of. This, however, does not make the game any less significant for anyone involved, instead it augments the importance of every game and every season of a short career. "I'm going to coach every play like it's the last play I'll ever coach," Coach Stanaland said to his team before kickoff, "and you should play the same way too."
Catch up with the previous episodes of When In Texas by visiting the entries below and stay tuned for the next week of the playoffs.
Week 1: Woodlands College Park vs Pearland
Week 2: Mason vs De Leon
Week 3: West Rusk vs Sabine
Week 4: El Paso vs Jefferson Silva
Week 5: Katy vs Katy Taylor
Week 5: St. Anthony vs St. Stephen's
Week 6: Lufkin vs Whitehouse
Week 7: Midland Lee vs Odessa Permian
Week 8: Denison vs Sherman
Week 10: Southlake Carroll vs Haltom
Week 11: Sweetwater vs Lamesa