In small Kansas towns, high school football is king.
“This is a football community,” said first year Oakley head coach Ty Pfannenstiel. “The community loves football too you can just tell it's in their blood.”
But shrinking western Kansas towns, getting the 11 or even 8 boys to make up a football team isn't always easy.
“It's a numbers game right now,” said Ellis head coach Butch Hayes. The Railers despite being a 2A school have just 24 players out for football this fall, 18 of which are freshmen or sophomores.
In the Rooks County town of Palco, it was a game they just couldn't win. So after going 0-9 in 2012 and with only five boys expected to go out to football, the Rosters entered into a cooperative agreement with Logan. The players travel nearly hour one way every day for practice, but it’s an agreement that seems to be working. In year one the Logan/Palco team went 5-4.
“It doesn't matter if you are from Zurich, It doesn't matter if you are from Densmore,” said Logan-Palco head coach Dustine Patee. “We are the Logan/Palco Trojans and we are all going to red black and white.”
Co-Ops like the one between Logan and Palco have always been the standard for schools too small to field a team in the state of Kansas. But what if you can’t kind a team to coop with? Then you have two options, discontinue football or get creative.
In the Wallace county town of Weskan, the Coyotes have probably the smallest football team in the state of Kansas with just 10 players.
“To play 8 man football with those kinds of numbers doesn't seem fair to the kids,” said Weskan head coach Marc Cowles.
So this season the Coyotes are going to experiment with 6-man football. Weksan will play five games, all against other Kansas teams that, though fielding full 8-man squads this season, are also struggling with numbers.
“I hope some other teams will join us,” said Cowles. “Based on the current system I don't know if it's a great thing for us to only have five games a year.”
But Cowles says it better than no football because it keeps kids in Weskan and gives the town something to cheer for.
“High school boys need football,” said Cowles.” And if you don’t offer it they will go else were to play.”
Cowles says they have discussed the possibility of starting a 6-man division with KSHAA, but the bylaws require 24 schools to do so. Right now that is probably not likely. There is also discussion of starting a 6-man league in Western Kansas, though unless that number gets to 24, those teams would not be eligible for the post-season.