Six-man football just did a quarterback sneak in South Dakota. The idea had been in the huddle for about two years until Thursday, June 7, the board of the South Dakota High School Activities Association voted 6-1 to approve the addition of a six-man football class.
The six-man class will replace Class 9B and be open to schools with an average daily membership (ADM) of fewer than 40 males on their roster. Schools already participating in nine-man football can opt for six-man or stay in the nine-man class. The remaining nine-man teams will be divided into two classes instead of three.
The six-man class becomes effective in 2019, and schools eligible will have demonstrated a three-year male enrollment of below 40 students. Currently, there are 185 school districts in South Dakota and about 90 schools would fall under this category.
The biggest difference – other then the number of players on the field- is in six-man football, the games are played on fields 80 yards long and 40 yards wide. A first down requires 15 yards, instead of 10, and all players are eligible receivers. There must also be a clean exchange of the football. This means the quarterback must hand off, pitch, or throw the ball before it can cross the line of scrimmage. A field goal counts for four points. A kicked PAT is two points and a run in or pass for a PAT is one point. Teams regularly score more than 100 points per game, but after halftime, if a team leads by 45 points or more, the game ends. Different states and even schools within states, however, sometimes follow different rules.
Six man football isn’t new to South Dakota. Teams began to hit the field in the 1940s and the fast-paced, high-scoring games became popular in the 1950s. By 1951, 83 South Dakota schools participated – the ninth highest in the nation. A year later, the number grew to 110. In the 1960s, school enrollments climbed and the six-man class was eliminated in preference of the nine-man.
Although it was gone, it was not forgotten. In 1947, the Claremont Honkers beat Hecla 43-6 in their inaugural game – the first of 61 straight wins. The streak lasted for six perfect seasons before coming full circle to end at the hands of – you guessed it – Hecla. The Rockets beat the Honkers 26-0. It proved to be an anomaly, however, as the next year Claremont was again undefeated. Claremont’s 61-game streak from 1947-1953 still stands as the national record.