ONTARIO — Basketball on turf will be back this fall as the second year of the Oregon School Activities Association pilot run of six-man football is set to kick off in September.

According to an email from Sherman High School Principal Mike Somnis, who is helping to coordinate the six-man season this fall, “Everyone in that room had an absolutely great experience last fall. This seemed like it was mainly due to football being both more competitively balanced and viable for all of these communities and schools.”

With so few players on the field (the field is still 100-yards long, but cut to 40-yards wide), Huntington coach Noel Stark referred to six-man football as “football, mashed with basketball defense with a little bit of freestyle rugby.”

The OSAA implemented the first pilot season of its six-man league in the fall of 2018, allowing the smaller 1A schools (any school with adjusted enrollment of 89 or fewer students) to find better competitive balance and some even needed the change to field a team at all.

Huntington High School’s team had 11 players on the roster, but had only six players out for the first week of practice. Stark said he might not have had a team in 2018 if they were still playing eight-man football.

Harper was also a member of the six-man football league last fall. The Hornets finished the season with a 7-1 record while the Locomotives finished with a 2-5 record.

During a January meeting, the coaches and/or athletic directors of six-man football schools it was decided that year two of the six-man football pilot would end with an event similar to last year’s.

Last season, the six-man teams met at Madras High School for an unofficial state championship bowl-style series. The two regions met up and the teams paired up based on standing with the two No. 1 teams playing for the unofficial state championship.

This season will be similar in play, with the teams pairing up based on standing and the top two teams from each region compete in a four-team playoff (similar to the way college football does its national championship) for the unofficial state championship.

Elsewhere in Malheur County, Adrian and Jordan Valley will continue to play as a co-op team on a year-by-year basis, according to Adrian Athletic Director Aimee Eslin. The Mustangs, with 28 students last year (according to the OSAA) are small enough to play six-man football if they decide to part ways with the Antelopes.

Next summer, the OSAA’s Executive Board will be meeting to discuss the future of six-man football in Oregon. OSAA Assistant Executive Director Brad Garrett said he’s expecting the six-man schools will ask the Board to begin sponsoring the six-man state tournament.

Nik Streng is the sports reporter for the Argus Observer. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a master's degree in journalism, after graduating from Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing.

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