Joseph High School is starting the year with a new sport –– sort of –– and a new head coach.
Duncan Christman will coach the Eagle six-man football squad.
Oregon School Activities Association approved a trial period for the sport, which was regularly played in small towns across the state 1947-59. It was replaced with eight-man games.
It is widely viewed as a method of smaller schools to keep football programs alive.
Six-man football was offered as an alternative for schools with an adjusted enrollment of 89 students as part of a two-year pilot program.
This will be Christman’s first year as a head coach. He has previously coached at the middle-school level in Joseph and was an assistant coach on the varsity track team.
Christman was a multi-sport athlete for Enterprise High School, graduating in 2012. He was also active in dramatics and had a number of roles in play productions produced at the school.
He earned his degree at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston and headed back to Wallowa County. He will be substituting in all three school districts in the county this school year.
Christman has been learning the six-man rules and teaching them to the 15 who have already joined the team.
“It’s a lot quicker than eight-man football,” Christman said. Oregon chose a 40x100-yard playing field.
“That five yards missing off each sideline come at you pretty quickly,” he added.
Like any member of his age group, Christman turned to YouTube to learn about the sport. He also spent one-on-one time with a coach from Missoula, Mont., who has been coaching four years.
The sport has its roots in Texas, but has become increasingly popular throughout the northern tier of states.
His assistant, John DeWitt, attended a clinic on six-man football in Hermiston. DeWitt, a recent arrival in Wallowa County, has a background is rugby and will be teaching math classes at Joseph.
Christman described the team’s practices thus far as a “fun learning experience.”
“We’re learning new types of offenses and getting used to everyone on the line being eligible receivers,” he noted.
A broad crop of seniors also bodes well for the coming season.
Tyler Homan, Kade Kilgore, Trey Wandschneider, TJ Grote and Steven Beckman will do yeoman’s work for the squad. Beckman will be the center.
Five juniors and four freshmen round out the team.
Christman said he doesn’t have too many expectations since it’s never been done before.
“I’d like to say we’re going to have a winning season,” Christman said.
The change to six-man also means Joseph will be playing a number of teams from schools heretofore unknown.
South Wasco County in Maupin, Ore., is the furthest destination, a 600-mile round trip. Relatively nearby opponents include Huntington, Burnt River, Monument and Echo. Other teams Joseph will face in the 1A Special District 2 are Harper, Prairie City and Spray/Mitchell/Wheeler.
Christman said Huntington was a six-man dynasty in the sport’s previous iteration.
Games have a faster pace than other football layouts and scores often appear more like basektball numbers than football.
Christman said he hopes the community will come out and support the Eagles, which will have five home games.
“For anyone who says it’s not ‘real’ footall, I’l like to have them come out and see the amount of work this team is putting in,” Christman said.
In addition to the five seniors, Ethan Pitman, Carlson Littlepage, Guylan Snyder, Juston Rodgers, Hayden Hite, Chase Homan, Trace Collier and Brad Wilcox are also on the team.
SIX-MAN FOOTBALL AT A GLANCE
• Most teams use an onside kick; the ball is rarely kicked into the end zone.
• Offense must advance 15 yards in four downs.
• Unless the ball is kicked or forward passed, it may not be advanced across the line of scrimmage. No quarter-back keepers.
• Pass from snap receiver to snapper must travel at least one yard in flight.
• Quarters are 10 minutes in length.
• At least three players must be on the line of scrimmage at the snap.
• All players are eligible pass receivers.
• A field goal scored by kicking is worth two points, a pass or run field goal is one point.