The second quarter is the final American Football game of a season disrupted by the pandemic. John Aguero, the quarterback/running-back hybrid of the Shorthorns, snaps the ball and throws it to Ethan Zubia. Ethan is able to move beyond the line.

Ethan scrambles backward for about 15 yards behind his three-person offense line (only 12 players are on the field). He dodges one Van Horn Eagles defender, then another. He throws a pass to the Shorthorns’ wide receiver Ian Marquez, who catches it. Touchdown! Marfa fans who drove more than an hour from Marfa to Eagle Field to cheer on their team tonight go wild.

The Eagles are still ahead 34-12 at halftime despite their advantage as the home team. However, the Shorthorns’ trip into the end zone gives the hope that they can avoid the 45-point rule (which states that a winning team is determined if it has a lead of more than 45 points after or at the end of the first half). In a high school American Football game, a team that has a 45-point advantage would cause concern. In this high-scoring game, where a missed tackle can lead to a touchdown, it is not unusual.

Marfa’s Identity Crisis

American football, whether it’s played, coached, or watched from the sidelines by the residents of Marfa, is an integral part of the town. COVID-19 has made the locals more aware of how important it is to keep the lights on Friday nights and just how easy it is to turn them off.

Marfa, Texas, has become a cultural and artistic oasis in recent years. Tourists flock to its upscale restaurants, trendy hotels, and ironic exhibitions. These changes are driving out blue-collar employees, educators, and long-time residents who have lived in the area for generations. The spiraling rents, expensive boutiques, and $60 steaks are not appealing to them.

American football is a passion that residents of a small community in Texas, a town of 2,000 people located less than 200 miles away from El Paso. Arturo Alferez, head coach of the Shorthorns American Football team, says that when you enter town, there are painted windows, flags, and the spirit of Marfa, as well as the purple, white, and purple. “You feel like you are a special part of this; you’re part of what brings out the best in this town,” says Arturo Alferez, head coach of the Shorthorns American football team.

Marfa’s American football team went from an 11-man lineup to a six-man one in 2011 due to the departure.

Let’s Throw It Back

Stephen E. Epler, a Nebraska coach and teacher during the Great Depression, created this modified version of American Football. It was called “Six-man,” and his goal was to provide players from towns that were shrinking in population with an opportunity to participate. In 1934, the first six-man official game was played in Nebraska. The sport then made its way to Texas by 1938. In 1953, the sport had reached thousands of rural schools.

More than 350 small schools in Nebraska, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Texas have six-man football teams. This is due to the same type of migration that impacted rural areas during the Great Depression. More than 150 Texas schools are expected to play six-man American football from 2020 to 2022.

The Rules

To be eligible for the competition, a school must have less than 105 students.

First downs are 15 yards, not 10

The quarters last 10 minutes instead of 12.

Each player on the field can be a receiver.

A clean exchange must be made before the quarterback can advance past the line of scrimmage. In order to circumvent this, it is common to hike the ball up to a player, who will then hand the ball over to the quarterback. This allows the quarterback to scramble as he pleases.

A field goal now has 4 points instead of 3. Kicked points after touchdowns are worth 2 (instead of 1), and converted runs or pass plays only count for 1 (instead of 2).

The Game Plan

Be disciplined and focused. Otherwise, you may get in trouble with the defensive coordinator, Coach Josh Kelly.

Never punt when you’re down to the fourth. Not even if it is fourth and 27, Arturo Alferez is the head coach of six-man American Football. He likes to gamble.

Do not get “45ed”. You lose if you are down 45 points at the beginning or end of the second half.

The move With fewer players on the field, everyone has to run a lot.

Home Turf

Martin Field is the home of the Shorthorns. It is 80 by 40 yards instead of the usual 120 by 53 34 as with a six-man field. The sun-baked, yellowing grass is painted with numbers and hash marks. There were many fans in the bleachers before the pandemic. However, a small group of die-hards remain. Fans of American football are drawn to the end-to-end matches and lively practices.


This sport is not only about the players; it’s also about the coaches, administrators, and fans who come to every game, no matter what the score. Six-man is only alive because of the village.

Wide Receiver

It gives small schools the opportunity to play American Football. “Six-man is great,” says Ian, who barely played any football before this season. He chose not to play as a freshman. This decision shocked his parents, who are avid American football fans and come from a family of talented athletes. Angel, his older brother, is an eight-man legend in the locality, known for scoring ten touchdowns during a single match. Ian was a standout in his junior year when he finally donned the uniform. Coach Alferez said that Ian’s athleticism enabled the Shorthorns to throw the ball more often.

Head American Football Coach

Coach Alferez is a veteran of Texas schools, having coached a variety of sports for the past two decades. He is known as a teddy bear by his students and coaches. He says, “Coaching American football in Marfa is an emotional experience for me.” Coach Alferez wants to instill new traditions, some of which are directly related to American Football, such as winning. He also encourages his team to learn ballet Folklorico, an old Mexican folk dance. He often jokes about retiring, but it is clear that he wants the program to be a success. He says, “I tell them that if your [end] goals are not to win hardware, such as trophies, rings, and so on, then I think you’re on the wrong team.”