Saturday, October 9, 2010

The eight-man experience

I made my way to the northeast part of the county last night for my first experience in eight-man football.

Maud at Arkoma was the top game in the county last night and I decided this was the time and place to lose my eight-man virginity.

After missing my turn and going around the block, trying to find the entrance, I found a spot close to the gate. Sweet. I must admit that returning to the Arkoma football field brought back some bittersweet memories.

The last time I was on this field was 30 years ago (yes, I am that old despite my youthful appearance!) when the Heavener Wolves played the Arkoma Mustangs in the season opener.

That was a loss for the Wolfies. I had one of my better games as a chubby quarterback for Heavener, but it was a bad way to open the season.

I walked up to the gate and told them I was here to cover the game. The gatekeepers smiled and let me through. I asked if there was a program available. They looked at me like I had just passed a windy. “No, we’re not that fancy,” she said, or something like that.

Now I have been to games where a roster isn’t available for one team and I usually can cope. But both teams? Eek! I walked to the press box and found rosters available. They were handwritten and I had to copy them down, but that was fine.

The first thing I noticed about the field was it was the regulation length, but a lot more narrow. It was 44 yards wide, instead of the typical 53. I introduced myself to the Arkoma coaches and had a short conversation and they are now among my favorite coaches. Easy going, friendly and about everything you can ask for.

Just like the Arkoma people at the game. A couple of Journal readers came up and introduced themselves and I found one of our frequent readers and introduced myself.

I watched the teams during the warm ups and they looked like most other football teams, just without as many players. Maud did have the coolest helmets I have seen in high school, a replica of the Cincinnati Bengals’ black stripes on orange helmets.

Finally, it was time for some football. I noticed all the officials were black and wearing outfits that looked like the NFL attire for officials with black pants instead of the usual white ones. The first kickoff was a regular kickoff, which seemed normal at the time but was surprising later (more about that soon!)

Arkoma promptly scored on a long pass play. Maud came right back and scored. Then Arkoma scored and guess what? Maud scored. That was the theme of the night. The football was well played, the players were excited, as were the fans and cheerleaders, even the Arkoma community band, which was surprisingly good.

The Mustangs scored late in the first half to lead 22-16. I was thinking I could dig this.

As I mentioned previously, the first kickoff was a normal one. From that point on, both teams tried onside kicks. Every kick. Every time. I liked that. Of course, it gave the teams short fields if they recovered, but can you imagine a coach at a bigger high school trying that?

Then, it was time for the second half. I thought there had been a lot of scoring in the first half. El wrongo. Maud scored 38 points in the third quarter alone. The Tigers had two touchdowns within 16 seconds. Seriously. Arkoma added 16 points in the third quarter. That equaled 54 points in one quarter for those of you scoring at home.

It was a quarter that seemed longer than most games. The officials did not help as they were seriously confused at times and the head guy moved at a pace that a crawling baby could top. Maybe they thought they were getting paid by the hour. Beats me.

The Arkoma kids were getting tired. I didn’t blame them. I was tired from my frequent walks back and forth on the sidelines.

As the game got a little out of hand, my attention started to wander a tad bit. I heard the old “Let’s get a little bit rowdy!” cheer, one I had not heard in probably 30 years. That was soon followed by the “Push ‘em back! Push ‘em back! Way back!” cheer. Another oldie, but not necessarily goodie.

The announcer was as good as I have heard all year. He even announced updates to the baseball playoff games. There were some good players. Arkoma’s Tyler Sweeten is as good of a receiver as I have seen this year. Maud’s quarterback was a stud, as were the two bowling ball running backs.

There were good hits, excellent catches, great runs and plenty of excitement. The only difference from other games was there weren’t as many players on the field or the sidelines.

After Maud took a 62-38 lead early in the fourth quarter, I thought maybe the mercy rule would be called and we could all go home before it got to the witching hour. Nope, the mercy rule was only if a team led by 45 points, one of the fans told me.

Ugh. I noticed the stands were departing rapidly. All the little elementary Mustang cheerleaders, who had entertained at halftime, were gone and probably already home in bed sleeping. Or texting.

The announcer kept reminding the crowd that a fifth-quarter would be held after the game. If it ever ended, I thought, but did not say. Heck, it probably wound up as a sleepever and everybody came in their jammies.

I realized about that time that there had not been a single punt all game. It was either score, turn the ball over or fail on fourth down. Mike Leach would love this.

After Maud scored again with 2:26 left in the game to increase the lead to 76-44, one Arkoma fan hollered out “We can do it!” I thought I might have morphed into an Adam Sander and wanted a sip of whatever that fan had been drinking.

In the last minutes, the announcer asked for applause for the officials. Whoa, I thought. I heard a boo from the Maud side and applause from the Arkoma crowd. Were they not watching the same game? I wondered, but did not say.

The clock slowly ticked away! Then there were back-to-back timeouts! I was about to drop. The Bob Marchant scoreboard show was probably over. My phone was dead and my texting finger was about to drop off. I probably have a callous now. I fear arthritis will hit sooner from the use of my texter from this game.

Finally, Maud got the ball back with just over a minute left and the quarterback took a knee! Hey, thank the big guy above. I edged out toward my truck and climbed in as the horn sounded. It was 10:47 p.m.

The final tally? Maud 76, Arkoma 44. FYI! That was 120 points scored in a single game. I was talking to a friend after the game and told him to shoot me if I ever mentioned going to another eight-man game.

But then I talked to Bokoshe coach Chad Ritter on the phone and he mentioned that Bokoshe will host Arkoma in a couple of weeks and I started thinking how that would be a good game.

So don’t shoot me, JP. Not yet.


  1. Hey Craig!
    Great blog! Darren used to referee 8-man
    football when we lived in OKC and he said it was pretty challenging. Loved your account of the game! Keep up the good work!

  2. 120 points in this game and Bokoshe lost their eight-man game 8-0. How does that happen?