I was recently invited to view the rough-cut screening of Six Man, Texas, an as yet to be released documentary about small towns, small schools, and six man football in the state of Texas, directed by Alan Barber. Going in, I knew nothing about the film, and less than nothing about six man football. The movie’s sort of Hands on a Hard Body meets Friday Night Lights. Six man football is like regular football, except that instead of eleven players playing offense and defense, there are only six. It’s also played on a smaller field, in addition to some other minor rules variations. It really is a different kind of game, though, and as much as I love regular, eleven player football, I have to admit the six man game is mighty exciting to watch. One person compared it to basketball, as in, it’s like basketball on a football field, and I have to agree. It’s a faster paced game than eleven man football, with the offenses flowing with the fluidity of a fast break in basketball, up and down the football field. It’s as entertaining, hard-nosed, and pure a game as any you’re likely to see, and deserves a more prominent place in the world of athletics than it currently holds, and more publicity than it’s currently being given.
Six man football is primarily played by small schools in small towns, whose athletic programs and/or student bodies cannot adequately support eleven man football. I think, in the film it was said that there have to be less than 99.5 students enrolled in grades nine through twelve for a school to be eligible to play, but don’t hold me to that. The plight of the small town and small school in Texas play a very prominent role in Six Man, Texas. A good chunk of the film is devoted to stories about how both are dying out, how the schools are the hearts of these towns, and when they’re consolidated, it’s, basically, a death sentence for these small communities, and their way of life. And how these small towns with their small schools go, so goes the game of six man football, which is based in these communities.
One of those communities is Aquilla, Texas, and the season of their 2000 six man football team is followed in intimate detail, and, ultimately, forms the heart of this film. That Aquilla team and the season they have is a microcosm of what this film, small towns, and small schools are all about, and why they should continue to be given a chance to blossom. The players on Aquilla’s 2000 team appear to be tight-knit, supportive of one another on and off the field, hardworking, and, most importantly, just flat-out good kids. And they are the best part of Six Man, Texas, the best little six man football film in Texas, a well played documentary that just like the game it observes, deserves to be seen and praised by a wide audience.