We've never seen anything like this in Six-Man before

By Russell Wilburn

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To say this has not been a normal season would be an understatement. In the 28 years I have covered six-man football, the problems unique to this situation have been like nothing I could have imagined.

Sure, in six-man, a single injury can change the trajectory of any team. A team can go from having legitimate playoff hopes to not being able to finish their season. Yes, games get canceled every week due to these circumstances.

But nothing compares to the volume of changes we are currently seeing. I have given up trying to count.

But I am just a fan.  How is the pandemic affecting those actually involved in the game on a day-to-day basis?

To that end, I reached out to several coaches to see how they are holding up, along with their students. Not all of them have had the same experiences, but I wanted to get a feel for those out there trying to have a season.

Here’s what they had to say.

 

Marfa Head Coach Arturo Alferez

Currently 1-3 in UIL Division 1

Marfa’s season has been off an on. They actually played in week one, but then had to take two weeks off before getting to play again in weeks four, five and six. Due to another outbreak at the school, they have again had to go to remote learning and are sitting out another two weeks.

What is your overall mood these days?

“The mood this last week has been very somber and upsetting. At Marfa, we have been shut down due to positive cases in our school district, which means no student activities until October 21.  We have ceased all volleyball and football practices and have cancelled games as a result of it.  Prior to this week, we celebrated homecoming with a win, memories, and cheers from what Friday Night Football brings out.”

How has your team reacted to the 2020 season?

“We have taken this season week-by-week, day-by-day, snap-by-snap.  I told our team that, ‘we will play football until we are told we cannot play anymore’. This season we have had to cancel scrimmages and rescheduled games and now, we are cancelling the next two games.“

How do you keep your team involved/motivated these days? Have you been able to practice?

“Motivation to play and practice the next day has been our daily motivation.  We have seen across Texas how schools have cancelled their seasons and games. We have been grateful to be able pad up. “

What is your approach for the final weeks of the regular season with your team?

“My approach for the final weeks is to be able to keep the team motivated and return to practice.  If we can give our Seniors one more snap, it would be momentous, for not just them, but for our school, their families, and the community.” 

 

Dime Box Head Coach Rick Frey

Currently 2-1 in UIL Division 2

Being so far East has its issues in six-man. Schools like Dime Box, Calvert and Union Hill all have to rely on private schools to complete their schedules. Unfortunately for Dime Box, their original schedule included quite a few TAPPS schools. When the organization made the decision to delay the season, this threw a wrench into the Longhorns’ plans. Unfortunately, those troubles have not ceased to exist. Currently they have played only three games and with Mt. Calm cancelling their season, they now only have two more remaining on their schedule.

What is your overall mood these days?

“Pretty good. This year has been challenging for everyone, with the challenge of staying ready and all the scheduling hiccups this year. But everyone seems very positive, despite those challenges.”

How has your team reacted to the 2020 season?

“As positive as we can. It's been very hard losing so many games, but our boys are just staying ready and being prepared for the next challenge. They are just happy that they are getting the chance to play.”

How do you keep your team involved/motivated these days?

“By focusing on the things we can control. We have had multiple weeks where we spent the first half of the week preparing for one team and then we find out we either don't have a game or we have someone else. We just motivate our guys to shift the focus and stay motivated despite the opponent. Always stay ready.”

What is your approach for the final weeks of the regular season with your team?

“To just to continue to work on the things that we know that we can control. We are continuing to do things as safely as we can in school, we encourage our players to make safe decisions off campus, and we continue to prepare for our district opponents so we can meet our goal of making the playoffs.”

 

Abbott Head Coach Terry Crawford

Currently 7-0, 1-0 in UIL Division 1

Not everything is doom and gloom, as evidenced by what Abbott has experienced. Not only have they not had to cancel any games, but they have also been playing really well and look to be a team that will be challenging for a regional title here in a month or so.

What is your overall mood these days?

“When your team is 7-0 things are always good.”

How has your team reacted to the 2020 season?

“The players have been extremely resilient.  They have followed (as much as you can expect high schoolers to) the COVID guidelines we have put in place. We have also asked them to do several things different this year (Don't hang around the locker room after games and practice, Virtual meetings over face to face, etc.)”

You’ve had a comparatively calm season as it relates to scheduling compared to much of the rest of your district. Have you spoken to many other coaches about their experiences? If so, what have you learned?

“We have been fortunate that the teams we have played have stayed illness free. I have spoken to a couple of coaches who have been involved in cancellations. While they are frustrated, they understand that this is the world we must currently deal with.”

What is your approach for the final weeks of the regular season with your team?

“Stay the course with our COVID-19 mitigation plan. So far, I believe it has helped play a role in us staying illness free. We continue to encourage our kids to take an advantage of the opportunity they have every time they step on the field because we never know what the future holds. Last spring proved that. Stay faithful and Pray!”

 

Irving The Highlands Head Coach Denver Bowden

Currently 1-1 in TAPPS Division I/II

A member of TAPPS, Irving The Highlands was forced to delay the season four weeks. Just as the season was about to get started, they had an outbreak and had to stop. They are currently playing and practicing.

What is your overall mood these days?

“My mood, well it’s not great. When we’re just focused on football it’s good. But there is that underlying of tension just hoping you don’t get bad news, and the season is over. It just doesn’t go away, it kind of hovers around like a dark cloud with you all day.”

What was it like sitting at home those first few weeks while other teams started practicing and then playing?

“It wasn’t too bad for us sitting, because we needed the extra practice time. Plus, that’s when the tension about everything was less, we were just more excited about when we do get to play games.”

What was it like to eventually get back onto the field, then have to stop and start again?

“To prepare for weeks, have things going good, play a scrimmage, then have to stop; that was a tough pill to swallow. I had a couple of low moments those first few days. But once we got back together the first time, it was like we never left. The good thing is how dedicated the guys are to playing, and the parents are supporting us. That’s made it so much easier to get though the road blocks.”

How has your team reacted to the 2020 season?

“The team has reacted well. They have bought into the fact the COVID situation is part of the season, dealing with it is no different than staying in shape, or watching game film. The good thing is, I have six seniors, which is a lot at this level, and all are great leaders. They have bought into the system.”

“Getting to play has become such a priority in their lives, it’s resonated though out the team. Sure, we did have one kid get sick, but it had nothing to do with football, and was of no fault of his own. The reaction to everything has been great, through all the setbacks, and adversity, they have stayed the course. So, when we beat Lucas Christian yesterday, I was very emotional when speaking to them, I was just so happy for them.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

“If we can take one positive thing from this god-awful mess, I guess it can be to never take this for granted. I’ve been coaching long enough where I know that on Fridays in the fall, I’ll be on the sideline. Not always sure what school, but I know I’ll be doing that, it’s a given. This has changed that, and also becoming a father as well. I’ll never take it for granted again.”

 

Jonesboro Head Coach Eddie Gallegos

Currently 6-1 in UIL Division 1

The Eagles have been flying along this season. Last week they were ranked #9 when their scheduled game was canceled on Wednesday. They immediately jumped at the chance to play then #4 Borden County, in a rematch of the 2017 state title game, with only two days to prepare.

What is your overall mood these days?

“Our mood is good; normal I would say. Trying to remain positive and optimistic about continuing the season and having the opportunity to play this season out.”

How has your team reacted to the 2020 season?

“Kids are resilient by nature. Ours enjoyed getting back to normal with school and football.“

You have not had to deal with too much change, but you quickly picked up a game with a strong Borden County squad on short notice. What was your thinking there?

“We had some schedule changes right before the season kicked off, but for the most part our varsity schedule has been set.  We needed to fill one more game and BC was looking. It was a short week to prepare for their unique and challenging offensive scheme, but I think we’ll be better for seeing a well-coached physical team right before going into district play.”

What is your approach for the final weeks of the regular season with your team?

“The last few weeks, as more and more teams miss games due to COVID, we will try to remain diligent in following proper procedures for us and the kids moving forward, so we can continue with the season. “

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