Friday Night Lights Feature: Seeing plenty of the Field
All across small-town America there are grassy oasis's. Towns mostly with two or three hundred residents have fields chalked and lined 80-yards in length, and most of the time, surrounded by a dirt track.
And when in use, only 12 athletes occupy the tundra at one time. Touchdowns are still worth six points, but the kicks after a score are worth two. And a field goal, as strange as it may sound, is worth four points, not three.
Six-Man football is a variation of 11-Man football, but is still football nonetheless.
North Star's Jordy Donoven knows exactly what it means to be part of one of football's best-kept secrets. Now a senior at North Star High School in Rudyard, Donoven has been one of the Knight's main components on the football field. He has been a varsity letter winner since he was a freshman and has been a fulltime starter since his sophomore season when he grabbed All-Conference honors. And as a junior, Donoven also earned Six-Man All-State honors as a quarterback.
The All-Conference and All-State Honors were much deserved by Donoven according to what he has done for the Knights the last three years, and for what he is doing for the Knights this season. And looking at his background, he is the epitome of what a Six-Man football player should be.
Athleticism aside, Donoven has done whatever it took to make the Knights a better football team. He has bounced all over the North Star lineup, and has basically lined up in every position except for on the offensive and defensive lines. He has played defensive back, but now plays linebacker. He was the starting quarterback last season, but now lines up as the Knights No. 1 running threat. Basically, if the Knights need Donoven, he answers the call.
"That is one thing about Six-Man football," Donoven said. "You pretty much have to play everywhere. But that is what makes it so cool, you get to do a lot of aspects of football, one play you may be blocking, but then the next you might be passing the ball. You get to punt and kick, and pretty much get to do a little bit of everything.
"You have to be able to adapt to different situations," Donoven added. "If somebody goes down at bigger schools, they usually have backups in that position to step up and fill in. In smaller schools, if a big starting lineman goes down we have to go with a smaller or younger kid. We have less numbers so you have to be ready and willing to play every position and sometimes go the whole game on both sides of the ball."
And Donoven wouldn't have it any other way. In his eyes, he doesn't have to play several different positions he gets to. And that is something he may have never experienced if he was playing on a traditional 11-Man football team.
"I would have been specialized on maybe just one part of football," Donoven said. "I might not even be playing both sides of the ball, maybe just as a defensive back or receiver. But playing here, I get to do it all. You get the most playing time possible in Six-Man."
Another major difference Six-Man has too traditional football is the size of the field.
Just 80-yards long, the field actually presents the game with more big-play capability. Six offensive players battling six defenders, the game is also very up-tempo with the field seemingly less cluttered with just 12 total athletes.
And with a few different rules, anything can happen according to Donoven. One of the more notable rule differences is the fact that everybody is an eligible receiver on a passing play, this can turn a play with a scrambling quarterback into big TD pass by one of his four receivers.
"I think it is just so much quicker," Donoven said. "In 11-Man there are plays like a dive down the middle where you may come away with two or three tough yards. There is just so much more space to use (in Six-Man), so any play has the potential to be broken open into a big play. But you still have to be able to stop people. Teams put up big numbers, but you have to be able to stop them also, and more importantly, you have to be able to make the tackle in the open field because there just aren't as many people around help you."
Donoven has a long list of accolades playing for North Star, but doing everything he can to help the team be successful, his most notable accomplishment is taking the Knights to the playoffs for the last three years. Now with two conference wins in his senior year, and three conference games left, the goal of making it to the postseason for a fourth straight year is right at his finger tips.
This weekend the Knights face Big Sandy in Big Sandy, and then to follow, the Knights will face Stanford-Geysor and Valier.
"Making the playoffs this year is one of my main goals," Donoven said. "Those are three tough games to finish up a season and we just have to take it one game at a time. It normally takes three conference wins to get into the playoffs and we have two right now. We just need to get one or two more to punch our ticket to the playoffs, and we just have to take it one game at a time."
North Star's Jordy Donoven (left) returns a kickoff for a touchdown during a Class C Six-Man football game against Big Sandy last fall in Rudyard. As the Knights and Pioneers prepare to play tonight in Big Sandy, Donoven has done it all on the football field, thanks to the unique game that is Six-Man football.