WINDTHORST -- In the shadows of St. Mary's Catholic Church, which sits on the highest point in this town 20 miles south of Wichita Falls, sat the arena -- for one night, at least -- where the Throckmorton Greyhounds would defend the honor of Texas six-man football.
A chance for the Greyhounds to prove on Windthorst's Class A football field that they too belong among the heroes of the Friday night lights.
"People say, 'Well, you play six men and don't have to worry about the other five,'" said Throckmorton senior Gary Farquhar. "Hey, we go to practice every day just like they do.
"They might have more kids on the sideline, but we can compete with them."
As far as anyone can tell or recall, for the first time a Texas high school six-man team played an 11-man team on Friday when the Greyhounds faced Windthorst, an 11-man Class A program, in an exhibition that doubled as a grand experiment of high school football.
The teams played the standard 11 men and 11-man rules for the first half, and six men and six-man rules in the second half.
Pride in football at both schools, former 11-man district rivals, has been well-earned.
The Greyhounds are a two-time state champion since beginning play in six-man in 2004, including winning the title last season. They were the runner-up in the 1986 Class A 11-man title game.
Windthorst won Class A titles in 1996 and 2005 and is a two-time runner-up.
In Windthorst, there had been a lot of head scratching about this game, scheduled by coaches after each had a vacancy in their schedules. Instead of a proving ground, Trojans coaches viewed the game as a break from the monotony of a long season and a chance for the boys to do something different.
Six-man football was the Trojans' taste of the Mars Explorer.
The quicker and smaller Greyhounds held their own in the 11-man portion, helped by three Windthorst fumbles.
Windthorst went into halftime leading 7-0 before Throckmorton got into its element.
'Tough to prepare'
Traditions in Windthorst are calculated in multitudes, just like casings for a favorite delicacy in town, German sausage.
Six-man football is not one of them.
"It'll be a circus for us," said Russell Fotz, a graduate of Windthorst who with his father owns a general store in the old Weinzapfel building. "I just hope they don't take it to us in six-man. It's a lot of running and... a lot of running."
Windthorst lineman Brendon Schreiber's face broke into a big smile when he thought of catching a pass in the six-man portion of the game.
In six-man, every player is an eligible receiver.
But what would happen in the six-man portion was anybody's guess, said Windthorst coach Chris Tackett, a native of Grandview who had no experience in six-man before Friday.
The six-man game is faster with more open space for its skill-position players to roam.
A quick touchdown to start the second half by Throckmorton provided a hint.
Tackett and Throckmorton coach Mike Reed offered each other tutorials on the nuances of the different games. The two sought advice from other six-man and 11-man coaches, too.
"It was tough to prepare," said Tackett, whose team is projected to be in the playoff mix in District 3-A. "We just took a part of our practice every day and worked six-man. And we still had to work our other stuff."
Six-man is played on an 80x40-yard field as opposed to 100 yards by 50 yards. Teams must advance the ball 15 yards instead of the 11-man standard 10 for a first down.
Ultimately, Tackett said, observers would likely see his Windthorst guys playing something akin to the "basic junior high six-man experience."
No tricks. Just the bare basics.
One adjustment he did make was putting both his best passers in the backfield, considering that the quarterback, or the player the ball is snapped to, can't advance the ball past the line of scrimmage except by a pass.
"Maybe that'll help," Tackett said while figuratively throwing his hands in the air. "I don't know.
"We just hope we can hang onto the ball. And Throckmorton is darn good."
Big game feel
Believe it or not, there existed among a few residents an irrational fear that Throckmorton would turn to a ghost town if 11-man football were abandoned.
The Greyhounds for 10 or so years prior had an enrollment at six-man levels but continued to play in Class A with mixed results.
"There may be an economical reason the community is shrinking," said Donnell Brown, now a school board trustee, laughing, "but I don't think it's six-man football."
Throckmorton football has flourished since the move.
The Trojans are 81-13 since 2004 with two state championships. This senior class, led by Farquhar and Levi Taylor, has lost three games in four years.
"There are so many similarities to both games," said coach Mike Reed, who also led Rule to two state-title games. "Your skill guys still have to run great routes, they still have to throw good passes, they still have to tackle, and you still got to block."
In addition to a proving ground, the game also gave the Greyhounds a playoff feel with more pep in the pep rally and the nervous anxiety for players before the big game, said Reed.
"This is a great opportunity for us to have some fun and try something new," Taylor said. "And we're excited to show that six-man football players are football players no matter what."
Throckmorton's try at 11-man football had its share of triumphs, including a deficit of only seven points at the end of the first half. The stat keeper told a more complete story, however.
The Greyhounds had a total of minus-9 yards in the first half. They had held their own, nonetheless.
The athletic Farquhar led a second-half onslaught for the Greyhounds, who scored 46 unanswered points to start the third quarter.
Farquhar had a 3-yard touchdown reception and a 43-yard fumble return for a touchdown, a tackle for loss and a tipped pass in continually penetrating and harassing Windthorst's line defensively.
The Trojans' highlights were a Matthew Pitman 18-yard run and... a catch by Schreiber, who was still wearing his big smile after the game.
Throckmorton won big ... 46-15.
"That's what made this game so unique," Reed said. "I don't think anybody knew what to expect."
The two might try this again next year, too, depending on if the schedule can be filled without having to drive to Waco to do it.
Each will know a little more of what to expect.