Kit Carson's small-town environment provides a memorable game day experience to its football team

(Gabriel Christus/Denver Broncos)

Roughly 20 minutes after journeying southbound from the junction of Colorado Highways 94 and U.S. Route 287, passing cars roll into a small community that houses a dominant football program.

It's not the kind of football that fans would immediately think of when attending game. An 11-man lineup for one stereotypical team is nearly enough to for a full roster on both sides of the ball in Kit Carson.

The Wildcats are coming off a banner year that was just one win shy of a 6-man state championship.

It's no secret that 6-man football doesn't look like the same game as 11-man at times, but to the kids donning purple and yellow each weekend, it's a game that is every bit as structured as the 11-man version that most people are used to seeing.

"A lot of people just think it's a lot of running," running back Joe Bryan said earlier this month at Fall Sports Media Day hosted by the Denver Broncos. "They don't see much because there aren't as many people (on the field). But it's something we're used to and it's really fun to us."

In many ways, 6-man football is a fun experience for everyone involved. Fans, kids and parents waste no time in talking about what makes it, in some ways, better than the 11-man game.

"A big guy can catch the ball and run with it whenever he needs to," lineman Brock Weiand said with a big smile on his face.

Like any organized level of high school athletics, 6-man football is played on a regulated field under the eye of certified officials. There are rules to abide by and penalties to be called when those rules are broken.

At times the game can look like a neighborhood pick-up game that feels like it can break out at any time while driving through small town after small town on the way to Kit Carson.

For the Wildcats, the experience of playing 6-man football isn't tied strictly to the game itself. This is small town football. Hollywood films based around high school football often depicts towns shutting down in anticipation of a big-stakes game.

In Kit Carson, it's a reality. The games are events and parties for those in the town and even the players that will take the field.

"The day before a game we started having team dinner," senior David Arnold said. "We go to someone else's house and we just have a lot of fun there."

Parents are preparing ahead of time as well. The 6-man version of football isn't played in a newly built stadium. Often times, the only thing that will separate the field from the outside world is a chain link fence.

That means spectators have the ability to watch from seats far more comfortable than wood or metal bleachers.

"There will be games where cars are parked by the field days before the game," senior Brayden Bogenhagen said. "People go and get their spots for sure."

Flashing lights and car horns might accompany a touchdown celebration. Cordell Farmer explained that his dad often watches games from behind the goal posts and can make eye contact with each player who makes it into the end zone. Sometimes he might get in on the celebration.

When the final seconds tick off the clock, it doesn't always mean the fun is over. Not once in 2018 did the Wildcats lose on their home field. And that often prompted celebrations from fans and students alike. But in a small town, there isn't chaos to be had all over the place.

It's easy to gather in one central location and enjoy not just the win, but the weekly work that went into it.

"One of the things we started is called the fifth quarter, which our church on main street puts on," Bogenhagen said. "We go down there after our game and get snacks and some meals. We get to go down there and play some games and be with the other students. It's a good time."

It's the end of a week-long event. What Kit Carson does is unique to its community, but small towns throughout the state have similar build ups and celebrations. It's part of what makes all levels of high school football special.

A championship doesn't have to be won in Mile High Stadium for it to have a special feeling. Sometimes, winning on that small field in a manner that looks like an organized pick-up game can leave a lifelong impact on the kids who are playing and the community they are playing for.