Football as religion is the gospel truth here in Texas, where players are gods and fields are hallowed ground. So the organizers of this month’s Six-Man Super Saturday can be forgiven if their slogans have been a bit holier-than-thou: “Not since Moses have believers traveled so far to the promised land,” they’ve boasted. But it’s true: For the past few years, followers of the fast-moving, if abbreviated, version of the sport have been heading to Hico—about eighty miles southwest of Fort Worth—to see some of the state’s best small-town matchups.
After the pigskin-less months of summer, this chance to see five games in a single day is the best way to kick off another season. And for those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of seeing six-man for yourself, well, there’s no better introduction than to spend a few butt-numbing hours in the stands at Tiger Stadium. Launched in Texas in 1938, four years after a Nebraska coach invented it, the game solves a major conundrum for rural high schools that don’t have at least 22 young men ready to suit up. A few of the key elements to look for: The playing field is only 80 yards long and 120 feet wide (considerably condensed from the traditional 100 yards by 160 feet), and the football must move 15 yards (not 10) to gain a first down. Most important, all six teammates play offense and defense, so anybody can score a TD and everybody must know how to tackle. “You’ll be amazed by what kind of athletes these kids are,” says superfan (and recognized expert) Granger Huntress, whose Web site, sixmanfootball .com, gets some one million hits a month during the height of the season. “There are no fat kids on the field.” There are no slow ones either, for that matter.
And the student-athletes from the ten teams invited to Hico are particularly lean and fast. Consider some of this year’s squads: Throckmorton, Strawn, and Cal- vert have all won state championships in the past five years, and Valley (located in Turkey) fell just short in 2004 and 2005. As for the lowdown on the head-to-heads, Huntress is betting that Garden City and Calvert will provide particular fireworks. Mike Ferguson, the Hico native who, along with his brother, Jim, started Super Saturday, advises that if you can only make it to one game, it should be the Throckmorton-Trinidad contest. Round- ing out the lineup are Lometa versus Grandfalls-Royalty, Strawn versus Valley, and Iredell versus Jonesboro.
Adding to the pep rally atmosphere will be appearances by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (natch), rodeo legend Cody Ohl, and former Cowboys Burton Lawless and Walt Garrison, who was so busy signing autographs last year that he barely saw a snap. For many of the high schoolers who have been invited, it’ll be the experience of their lives. Hailing from hometowns with populations ranging from only 125 to 1,390, they’ve likely never played before so many folks. As for the 4,500 or so devotees who come out, you can bet they all agree on one central tenet: And on the eighth day, God created six-man. Sep 1. Tiger Stadium: From U.S. 281, travel one block east on Elizabeth; 254-796-2181; hicosupersix.com