Six-man football
Six-man football is a variant of American football
American football
American football is a sport played between two teams of eleven with the objective of scoring points by advancing the ball into the opposing team's end zone. Known in the United States simply as football, it may also be referred to informally as gridiron football. The ball can be advanced by...

 that is played with six players per team, instead of 11.


6-man football was developed in 1934 by Chester (Nebraska)
Chester, Nebraska
Chester is a village in Thayer County, Nebraska, United States. The population was 294 at the 2000 census.Chester is notable as being the birthplace of six-man football.-Geography:Chester is located at ....

 High School coach Stephen Epler as an alternative means for small high schools to field a football team during the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

. The first six-man game played in Texas was on September 29, 1936 between Sylvester High School and Dowell High School at the high school football field in Rotan, TX. Sylvester won the game 14-0. In 1938, Prairie Lea High took on Martindale High School in a six-man football game played as a demonstration game to see if the Texas UIL would adopt it as a sanctioned sport, which they did, and by spring of that year about 55 schools were playing the game. This number had doubled by 1939 and at one point in the 1960s there were more than 160 six-man teams in Texas. On October 5, 1940, Windham High School from Windham, Ohio
Windham, Ohio
Windham is a village located in Portage County, Ohio, United States. It is formed from portions of Windham Township, one of the original townships of the Connecticut Western Reserve. The population was 2,209 at the 2010 census. In 1942, the US government chose Windham as the site of an army camp...

 defeated Stamford Collegiate of Niagara Falls, Ontario, 39-1 in the first international six-man football game. Jack Pardee
Jack Pardee
-NFL:-External links:...

, who played in the 1950s at Christoval High School
Christoval Independent School District
Christoval Independent School District is a public school district based in the community of Christoval, Texas .Christoval ISD has two schools - Christoval High and Christoval Elementary ....

 in Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 is a 6-man player who played and coached in the NFL. Chicago Bear Ed Sprinkle, who played six-man football at Tuscola High School in 1939, is another former Texas High School 6-man player who played in the NFL.

Game play

Six-man is a fast-moving game played on an 80-yard
A yard is a unit of length in several different systems including English units, Imperial units and United States customary units. It is equal to 3 feet or 36 inches...

 (73 m
The metre , symbol m, is the base unit of length in the International System of Units . Originally intended to be one ten-millionth of the distance from the Earth's equator to the North Pole , its definition has been periodically refined to reflect growing knowledge of metrology...

) long by 40-yard wide (37 m) field (instead of the normal 100-yd (91 m) by 53-yd (48.8 m) field used in 11-man football. Furthermore, the game specifies a 15-yard distance (14 m) from the line of scrimmage
Line of scrimmage
In American and Canadian football a line of scrimmage is an imaginary transverse line beyond which a team cannot cross until the next play has begun...

 to gain a first down
Down (football)
A down is a period in which a play transpires in American and Canadian football.-Description:A down begins with a snap or free kick , and ends when the ball or the player in possession of it is declared down by an official, a team scores, or the ball or player in possession of it leaves the field...

, instead of the normal 10 yards (9 m).

All six players are eligible to be receivers. On offense, three linemen are required on the line of scrimmage at the start of the play. The person to whom the ball is snapped cannot run the ball past the line of scrimmage; however, if the ball is tossed to another player, that player can run or throw the ball and the person to whom the ball was snapped is still an eligible receiver. All forward passes to the player who snapped the ball (center) must travel at least 1 yard (1 m) in flight.


Scoring is the same as in 11-man football, with the exceptions being on the point after touchdown
Extra Point
Extra Point is a twice-daily, two-minute segment on ESPN Radio that covers generic sports-related topical news and opinion. The AM edition airs Monday through Saturday at various times between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. ET, and the PM edition airs Monday through Friday between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET...

 attempt and the field goal
Field goal (football)
A field goal in American football and Canadian football is a goal that may be scored during general play . Field goals may be scored by a placekick or the now practically extinct drop kick.The drop kick fell out of favor in 1934 when the shape of the ball was changed...

. A point-after kick is worth two points
Two-point conversion
In American and Canadian football, a two-point conversion is a play a team attempts instead of kicking a one-point convert immediately after it scores a touchdown...

, while a conversion made by running or passing the ball is worth one point; this is the opposite of 11-man football. In addition, a field goal is worth 4 points instead of 3. These rule changes were made because of the difficulty of successfully getting a kick off with so few blockers on the line compared to the number of defenders. In both University Interscholastic League
University Interscholastic League
The University Interscholastic League is an organization that creates rules for and administers almost all athletic, music, and academic contests for public primary and secondary schools in the American state of Texas....

 and Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools
Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools
The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, or TAPPS, is an organization headquartered in Salado, Texas which creates rules for, and sometimes administers, almost all athletic and academic contests for non-public high schools in the American state of Texas...

 competition, a 45-point "mercy rule
Mercy rule
A mercy rule, also well known by the slightly less polite term slaughter rule , brings a sports event to an early end when one team has a very large and presumably insurmountable lead over the other team...

" exists to prevent lopsided scoring deficits (no such rule exists in the 11-man game). The game is ended under this rule if a team is losing by 45 or more points at halftime or at any point after. The mercy rule is alluded to in the title of the David Morse
David Morse (actor)
David Bowditch Morse is an American stage, television, and film actor. He first came to national attention as Dr. Jack Morrison in the medical drama St. Elsewhere from 1982 to 1988...

 film about six-man football, The Slaughter Rule
The Slaughter Rule
The Slaughter Rule is an independent film, released in 2002 and starring Ryan Gosling and David Morse. The movie, set in contemporary Montana, explores the relationship between a small-town high school football player , and his troubled coach...


Six-man football today

As of the 2008–2009 alignments from both UIL and TAPPS, the state of Texas has 183 six-man football teams (127 in UIL and 56 in TAPPS) ; this does not count schools in other leagues such as Texas Christian Athletic League (TCAL) or schools playing "outlaw schedules" (schools whose enrollment is too large to play six-man football in a sanctioned district, but nevertheless continue to organize a team) . The number of schools opting for six-man football is expected to increase due to declining population in small West Texas towns, and newer private schools opting for six-man football as less cost is required for equipment.

The state of Florida has 32 teams playing six-man football in the Florida Christian Association of Private and Parochial Schools. FCAPPS comprises small Christian or private schools and at least one home school cooperative. Teams in the conference are as far south as the Keys of Florida to as far north as Jacksonville.

The sport is also played by high schools in Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

, Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

, Nebraska
Nebraska is a state on the Great Plains of the Midwestern United States. The state's capital is Lincoln and its largest city is Omaha, on the Missouri River....

, New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

  and in parts of Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...


There are also two adult amateur football leagues: the San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is the seventh-largest city in the United States of America and the second-largest city within the state of Texas, with a population of 1.33 million. Located in the American Southwest and the south–central part of Texas, the city serves as the seat of Bexar County. In 2011,...

 based Texas Sixman Football Association (TSFA), and the Southeastern Christian Association of Sixman Football (SCASF). The TSFA just finished their 10th season with 13 teams vying for their championship and the SCASF just completed their 5th season with 8 teams. There is also one semi-pro six-man football league in Central Florida.

The A-11 offense
A-11 offense
The A-11 offense is an offensive scheme that has been used in some levels of amateur American football. In this offense, a loophole in the rules governing kicking formations is used to disguise which offensive players would be eligible to receive a pass for any given play...

, the original version of which is now banned in almost all levels of football, could be seen as an adaptation of the six-man offense to 11-man rules, with its wide-open style and the appearance of every player being eligible.

Six-man football in books

In 2005, coach C.H. Underwood authored what is considered to be the definitive strategy and play book for the game, Six Man Football, published by Bright Sky Press. A player during the 1960s and coach of the first Texas State Six-Man Championship team in 1972, Underwood provides a thorough dissertation on the small-town sport from both analytical and historical perspectives.

Another Bright Sky Press book, published in 2003, Grit and Glory: Six-Man Football is a collection of photographs that capture the spirit of the game and its players. Grit and Glory exclusively showcases the work of art photographer Laura Wilson
Laura Wilson (photographer)
Laura Cunningham Wilson is an American photographer. Her photographs have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, GQ Magazine, London’s Sunday Times Magazine, Wallpaper and the Washington Post Magazine.-Life and career:Wilson was born Laura Cunningham and raised in...

, mother of actors Owen Wilson
Owen Wilson
Owen Cunningham Wilson is an American actor and writer, known for his roles in the films The Haunting, The Royal Tenenbaums, Zoolander, Meet the Parents, Wedding Crashers, You, Me and Dupree, Bottle Rocket, the Cars series, The Darjeeling Limited, Marley & Me, Midnight in Paris, Shanghai Noon,...

, Luke Wilson
Luke Wilson
Luke Cunningham Wilson is an American film actor known for his roles in Old School, Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenenbaums, Legally Blonde, Idiocracy and Death at a Funeral.-Early life:...

, and Andrew Wilson
Andrew Wilson
Andrew Wilson or Andy Wilson may refer to:*Andrew Wilson , Unificationist educator*Andrew Wilson , US actor*Andrew Wilson , Scottish landscape-painter...


The newest release on the topic of Six Man Football is titled "Six: A Football Coach's Journey to a National Record". The book was authored by Marc Rasmussen and published by the South Dakota State Historical Society Press. It includes a detailed history of Stephen Epler, the inventor of the sport and follows the life of Willis "Bill" Welsh who lead a team from little Claremont, South Dakota to a national record for consecutive wins between 1947 and 1953. More information available on the South Dakota State Historical Society Press webpage

Six-man football in the movies

The Slaughter Rule
The Slaughter Rule
The Slaughter Rule is an independent film, released in 2002 and starring Ryan Gosling and David Morse. The movie, set in contemporary Montana, explores the relationship between a small-town high school football player , and his troubled coach...

, released in 2002, used six-man football as played in Montana as the backdrop for an examination of the relationship between a fatherless renegade football player and his loner coach. The film contains a brief but adequate explanation of how the game of six-man football is played and the footage of the actual game sequences is compelling. The title refers to a rule in which a game is called in the second half if one team gains a 45-point advantage over the other. In Texas and other states, it is referred to as the mercy rule. When invoked, one team is said to have "45ed" the other.

Six Man, Texas, released in 2008, is a documentary film that explores six-man football as identity in the public high schools of the 160 small towns in Texas that play it.

The Seventh Man, released in 2003, documents two years in the lives of the Panther Creek Panthers, one of the storied programs in Texas six-man football. It features the narration of Val Kilmer
Val Kilmer
Val Edward Kilmer is an American actor. Originally a stage actor, Kilmer became popular in the mid-1980s after a string of appearances in comedy films, starting with Top Secret! , then the cult classic Real Genius , as well as blockbuster action films, including a supporting role in Top Gun and a...


See also

  • Eight-man football
    Eight-man football
    Eight-man football is a type of American football, generally played by small high schools. Rules and formations vary greatly among states and even among different organizations, but the one constant is eight players from each team on the field at one time, as opposed to eleven-man football, which...

  • Nine-man football
    Nine-man football
    Nine-man football is a type of American football played by high schools that are too small to play the usual eleven-man game. As of 2007, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota had nine man football....

  • List of Six-man football stadiums in Texas
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