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Six-man advances,
but other teams may slide to 1A

The Centre Cougars had their heyday in eight-man football. 

When diehards think about the glory days of fall in Lincolnville, late legend Bud Peterson’s teams of the ’90s are likely the ones that come to mind first. 

Memorable battles with vicious rivals Hope, Solomon, White City, Little River, and Canton-Galva are hard to forget. 

Those teams, including a runner-up finish in 1990 to Keith Sides and Northern Valley, were highlighted by Cougar greats such as Jason Stika, Allen Beneke, Jeff Kahns, John Jirak, Jason Hajek, Kelly Wonser, and Kevin Steiner.

The Cougars finally reached the summit seven years after the Huskies spoiled their bid at an eight-man Division 1 title, capturing their only crown in 1997. 

The rivalries are set to be a thing of the past this year with a decline in enrollment and participation thwarting the Cougars from fielding enough players for an eight-man team. 

Enter what’s been labeled as “a basketball game on grass” — six-man football, and it’s on the rise in Kansas.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association voted last week to offer its first-ever six-man playoffs next year if at least 24 schools with maximum total enrollments of 55 in grades 9, 10, and 11 participate. The maximum enrollment for eight-man in the same grades is 100.

At the same time, because these schools would drop out of Class 1A, KSHSAA lowered the number of schools in Classes 3A and 2A from 48 in each class to 40, essentially moving 16 schools from 2A to 1A next year.

Hillsboro and Marion both moved up from 1A to 2A for the 2020-’21 school year and now may move back down to 1A for football in 2022-’23. Classes for other sports are calculated differently, and final classifications for next year are not yet available.

Six-man football was born in 1934 in Chester, Nebraska, as an alternative for small high schools during the Great Depression. 

The distance to pick up a first down is 15 yards, opposed to 10 yards in the eight- and 11-man game. 

Scoring is the same, only point-after kicks are worth two points and conversions from scrimmage are worth only one point. Field goals are worth four points, instead of three. 

Games have a tendency to produce higher scores because all six offensive players are eligible receivers, regularly resulting in 100-point games.

Six-man is played throughout the United States and in parts of Canada, but it’s biggest in the state where football is a religion, Texas, with more than 250 teams playing. 

Southeastern Conference hotbeds Florida and Alabama also field six-man teams, but outside of there, six-man primarily is found in Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Idaho, and Kansas. 

Kansas is up to 14 teams with the addition of Centre. The team that upended the Cougars 31 years ago for the eight-man Division I title, Almena-Northern Valley, is one of them. 

Twelve Kansas teams played six-man football a year ago, with the Cheylin Cougars the unofficial champion. 

The Moscow Wildcats won the inaugural Wild West Bowl in 2019, appropriately held in Dodge City. 

Pending further adoption of six-man but current eight-man teams, dropping to six-man means instead of short road trips within the county to Peabody and Goessel, Centre may be trekking into the mountain time zone with all but the Burrton Chargers located in the far northwest or western part of the state. 

The drop won’t have any effect on classifications for basketball or track, with Centre falling under Class 1A Division II, where rivalries with Wheat State League foes can resume.

Last modified Sept. 23, 2021

 

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