There’s only eight, but in the world of six-man football, that’s just enough.
Stephenville Faith, a network of Christian home school students, is preparing to kick off its first season of football and has exactly eight players participating at the high school level.
“At least we don’t have to worry about playing time,” joked coach Cody Martin.
But the eight who have been going through preseason practices that started this week have impressed Martin, who says the Faith Knights won’t back down from anyone.
“We’re going to play teams with 15 or 20 players,” Martin said. “That’s okay, we will take pride in taking on their 15 or 20 with our eight.”
At least the numbers aren’t lower, Martin says.
“I’ve been on a couple of Web sites of teams in our league, and I’ve noticed some of them are asking for more players because they don’t have enough,” Martin said. “At least we have enough to play.”
Of the eight, several have made a good impression on Knights coaches, beginning with versatile Daniel Winkler.
“Daniel worked out most of the summer. He was calling me asking when he could come to the weight room,” Martin said. “He’s a wide receiver and defensive back and after (Wednesday) he may be playing running back. He has by far been the standout so far.”
Not that Winkler is the only one catching coaches’ attention.
Austin Roberson has been tabbed as the quarterback since the spring, but is now receiving competition from Colton McCabe.
“Austin’s been here longer, but Colton just joined us so we’re going to let them compete,” Martin said.
Blake Roberson, Austin’s brother, is labeled as the team’s big hitter so far.
“He’s our starting center and he plays with a lot of aggression,” Martin said. “He’s been our biggest hitter.”
Defensive coordinator David Steele says Blake Roberson and Winkler have also been impressive on defense. Winkler joins Jacob Thompson at outside linebacker, which is a big part of the secondary in six-man football. The third part of the defensive backfield is the six-foot, four-inch McCabe at free safety.
“He’s a ball hawk,” Steele says of McCabe, “and David and Jacob have both caught on and are doing well. I think all three of them will be good players. I feel good about our secondary.”
McCabe says getting to play football is a treat for both himself and his peers.
“I’m having a blast,” McCabe said. “Just hanging out with a great bunch of guys and being around these great coaches has been a good experience.”
From a player’s perspective, McCabe feels the Knights are headed in the right direction.
“We’re going over a lot of basics - form tackling, getting in a good stance, things like that,” McCabe said. “We’re getting there. I think we’ll be alright. Time will tell I guess.”
Time is something that is quickly running out, at least for those counting down to the season opener.
“I’m ready for Lingleville,” Steele said.
Lingleville ISD is also starting six-man football this fall, bringing the sport back to the rural community more than 40 years after playing one season then dropping the sport due to a number of injuries.
Lingleville will host the season opener for both teams behind its old high school at 5 p.m. on Aug. 27.
Faith has a head start on Lingleville and other public schools because the Knights don’t have to adhere to the UIL’s no-contact rule for the first four days of practice.
“We’ve been in full pads since the start,” Martin said. “As coaches we will have to travel with our junior high team and make sure they get to practice during the season, too. While other high schools are practicing four or five days each week, we may only be going two or three days once the season starts, so we figured we’d put the pads on right away and take advantage of this time.”
Regardless of what happens on Aug. 27 or on any other game day this fall, Martin says the Knights are already proving they are winners.
“These kids just wanted a chance to play football and we’ve given them that,” he said. “The rest was on them, and they have shown up eager and ready to go to work. It’s been exciting to see them commit to something and work so hard for it.”