Forrest Murphy/WD Sports

Defensive players such as Weatherford Christian’s Jarrett Foland (15) must cover a large swath of open field while putting an emphasis on open-field tackling in 6-man football.

Weatherford Christian School, home of Parker County’s lone 6-man high school football team provided plenty of high-octane scoring performances in 2018, putting up 747 points in 13 games.

However the Lions were hardly a one-sided team.

WCS, which reached the TAPPS 6-Man Division III state finals, held five opponents under 10 points, another two under 20 points and an additional two under 30 points last season.

In all, the Lions held their 2018 opponents to a collective point total of 287, a product of the team’s emphasis on that side of the ball throughout the year, WCS Head Football Coach Stephen Cox said.

“I’m a defensive guy, I love defense,” Cox said.

“We’re working on defense two-and-a-half days a week. I think some coaches try to work [disproportionately] on their offense, like, ‘If we can score 90 and then if we win 90-80, it’s still a win.”’

That is not the view of Cox and the Lions, who see that side of the ball as instrumental in the team’s success, WCS’ head football coach added.

At the same time, teams like WCS must game plan the defensive side of the ball differently from what would normally be expected in 11-man, WCS Defensive Coordinator Jeff Winfield said.

“Defense is not necessarily overlooked [in 6-man] but it’s one of those things where you have one missed tackle and it’s gonna be a touchdown,” Winfield said.

“You try to stay in front of the offense and end zone as much as possible, but as far as playing a traditional defense where you let them get down to the 20 and then you bow your neck and try to keep them out of the end zone, there’s just too much field to cover, and with everybody being eligible it just makes it a little more difficult. 

“As a coach, I feel like if we stop them once or twice, we’re doing a good job.

“Speed kills in 6-man. And the more speed you have, the harder it is to defend. There’s so many different options because everybody is eligible, so as far as game planning, you try to game plan it to make one or two stops, but there lies the next biggest difference from 11-man. 

“In 11-man if you stop them for three downs then they punt the ball usually. In 6-man, it’s pretty much four downs to get 15 yards. Yeah, teams have got to go five extra yards but unless they’re pinned deep on their own end, they’re usually not gonna punt the ball a whole lot. In the state championship game [against Baytown], we got them to fourth down a couple times, but we couldn’t get off the field.

“In 11-man you get flow going one way and get a cutback, you’ve still got maybe five defenders on the other side of the field. In 6-man, you get flow going to the right and on your left side you might have one or two guys left over there. So if you have a running back with some vision and can see the field, that makes it difficult.”

While a single defensive stand may seem insufficient to potentially make or break a team’s chances of winning a game, successfully shutting down 6-man offenses, complete with a bevy of eligible receivers and a plethora of option plays available, even once is an accomplishment, Winfield added.

Cox said a few of the most important aspects of playing defense in 6-man include making open-field tackles as well as having strength at the safety and linebacker positions.

“The biggest keys on defense are a 6-man safety, because they can open-field tackle, and that’s all it is,” Cox said.

“There’s not a whole lot of gang tackling. Even if they run the spread, and you see it a lot in young guys, they’ll run really fast at the quarterback and if you have a quarterback like [WCS’] Jackson Floyd that’ll let you get this close and then step, now you’re five yards behind him. Now he has all that time to either throw a bomb or if all your guys are deep, he can run for 30 yards. That’s almost half the field in 6-man. As far as a scheme against tight [formations], we only run two guys on the defensive line because it’s 15 yards for a first down, so if they get three yards four times, they’re still short. So we concentrate on our linebackers flowing to the ball.”   

For Winfield, another important note when playing defense in 6-man is remaining aggressive, WCS’ defensive coordinator said.

“My first year I feel like our defense kind of sat back and waited,” Winfield said.

“Our second year we put pressure on [offenses] and forced them to make decisions to do what we wanted them to do. I felt like we were more on the attack our second year which allowed us to be more aggressive.”

The Lions will look to recreate that magic on the defensive side of the ball come next month when football kicks off.

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