Friday night began the way so many fall Fridays have in Edgemont. The Moguls took the field, and the town filed into the stadium to watch a football game.
This wasn’t a normal football game, though.
Edgemont faced off with Crawford, Neb., in a six-man football game, the only one of its kind in South Dakota this season.
The South Dakota High School Activities Association announced earlier this season that in addition to 11-man and nine-man football, teams will be able to start playing six-man football in 2019.
It was the 1950s the last time a South Dakota team played six-man football.
This is the first season longtime rival of Edgemont, Crawford, starting playing six-man football in Nebraska. With the Rams already on the schedule, Edgemont athletic director Lane Ostenson went to the SDHSAA and asked permission if the Moguls could start their adventure in six-man football a year early.
The SDHSAA said "yes."
“When it comes to scheduling games with out-of-state opponents, if we were to take Crawford off the schedule this year and then try to schedule them, it would be hard to get them back in the rotation,” Ostenson said. “It’s a 55-minute trip for us, and good, close football games are ones we want to keep on the schedule. It’s going to be a test from the coaches’ standpoint, the officials' standpoint and the fans' standpoint. It’s a totally different game.”
Led by 26 points in the fourth quarter, Crawford was able to overcome a halftime deficit and win convincingly 58-28.
Six-man football is played on a smaller field. Where an 11-man field is 100 yards long by 50 yards wide, a six-man field is 80 yards by 40. Instead of needing 10 yards for a first down, offenses need to gain 15 in six-man.
With fewer players on the field and more open space, games tend to be higher scoring than standard football games.
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Field goals are worth four points instead of three, extra points can be kicked or run in, and if it is run in, it's worth two points instead of one.
It’s the only six-man game Edgemont will play this season, and coach Dustin Christensen was given the task of learning new rules and a new kind of football for the Moguls' second game of the season.
“It was a little tough,” he said with a smile. “We just looked up plays online and have been trying to figure it out. Defensively it’s tough because we had them doing something with nine-man, and six-man is all about speed. You have to be able to tackle in the open field.”
The biggest appeal for six-man football is in towns that are the size of Edgemont. During last week’s game against Harding County, Edgemont only had 13 players, and without big numbers, it’s hard to be competitive.
Without six-man football, it’s unclear if Edgemont would be able to have a football team, and both Christensen and Ostenson think that would be a big blow for the community.
“Win or lose, we have a big following and a big crowd for our home football games,” Ostenson said. “Having six-man football means we‘ll continue to have Friday night football. It’ll be a little different, but we’ll be able to keep putting teams out there, and I think it’s going to be a big deal for South Dakota.”
Merging is another strategy for small towns who want to keep fielding football teams. Edgemont did merge with Oelrichs in 2007, but Ostenson said it didn’t go very well.
Although the football was a little different, and a little faster, the crowd was no less enthusiastic than it has been in the past.
No additional field maintenance was needed because nine-man teams have the option of playing on fields that are 80 by 40 yards.
It was still football, and it still brought people together.