As a sportswriter, it’s important to begin a post-game interview with the right question. You need something that can start a dialogue and set the pace for the rest of the conversation, something that proves you as the asker are competent and entices the interviewees to want to talk and give you those juicy nuggets to fill out a story.
Saturday, following Hot Springs’s nail-biter of a 6-man football loss to Denton-Geyser-Stanford, I decided to start my conversation with Savage Heat coach Jim Lawson by asking how it was that his team managed to score 21 points – i.e. three booming touchdowns – on three massive plays that totaled 220 yards while the rest of his early game tries on offense went for squadoosh.
He, immediately recognizing me as a 6-man rookie, politely offered an explanation to the explosiveness of broken plays before adding a smile and a caveat:
“That stuff is all pretty common in 6-man football.”
You’re right, Coach. Of course it is. It was at about this time I think we each acknowledged I was a bit out of my element. You see, Saturday’s Montana Class C state quarterfinal game was my first foray into the world of 6-man football.
I did my homework. I knew the major differences between 11-man – your typical football seen everywhere from ESPN to the Little Grizzlies.
Fifteen yards for a first down, not 10. An extra point kick is worth two, not one. Same as a two-point conversion is not for two by any means and just a single point. Plus quarterbacks can’t scramble past the line of scrimmage, even when rushed, so two skill players must touch the ball on every play.
Oh and the field is only 80 yards from end zone to end zone, not 100.
I’d forgotten the part where quarters last only 10 minutes, down from the regulation 12 of all other high school football games, but that had little impact on my ability to cover the game Saturday.
Sadly with Hot Springs’ 58-52 loss to Denton-Geyser-Stanford at home, that ends 6-man football season in the Missoulian’s coverage area. No more 6-man teams from western Montana remain in the state playoff bracket.
Which is too bad. I quite enjoyed the fast-paced game, which saw 84 points by halftime and supplied big play after big play. Six-man truly is the Wild West of football, where anything can happen and highlight-reel plays are made about as often as I could log them in my stat book
The lone drawback of my experience came more from the setting than the game itself. With no cell service in Hot Springs, I was suddenly tossed backward in time as a reporter. No Twitter, no live updates, not even the iPad scoring app worked – albeit for a much different reason that involves system crashes whenever a player scores on a kick return.
I guess I’ll have to wait until next fall to get a second dose of the fastest sport on the gridiron.
Perhaps by then, I’ll be able to impress those 6-man connoisseurs with my bulging knowledge of the small-town game.