BRONTE, Texas - When the ball is teed up and kicked off on the first Friday night of the season, it will be begin a season of lasts for the Bronte Longhorns.
The school forsees a smaller amount of boys coming into high school. In March, the school board unanimously approved a motion to move the team from 11-man football to six-man, meaning the upcoming season will be Bronte's last as an 11-man school.
"It sure is strange," senior offensive lineman and linebacker Jaxon Chantrill said of the change. "Ever since I was a kid I remember coming out here and watching 11-man football. I'm glad that as a senior I can finish that tradition of playing 11-man."
Athletic Director Rocky Rawls said there aren't many boys in the upcoming grades and he doesn't expect to get back to the amount of players needed to safely field an 11-man team.
"I haven't grown up with anything but 11-man, so it's kind of odd to think it'll all end," senior quarterback and defensive back Tanner Bedford said.
Rawls said the Longhorns don't talk about the years to come and the transition to six-man. He said he owes it to his six seniors to pour all their energy into their final seasons.
"I just want to make the community proud, make the team proud and have a great year," said Chantrill on his goals for the school's final 11-man year.
"Us seniors have made it a point to work as hard as we can so we can end this 11-man career for Bronte good," said Bedford, whose father coached at Bronte in the 2000s.
It is also an unusual situation for a first-year head coach to start. Aaron Long was an assistant at Reagan County, a Class 3A school, for three years, and he played six-man football at Garden City. He was drawn to Bronte after playing them in high school in other sports.
"Ever since then I had a tremendous amount of respect for coach Rawls and what he's done here," said Long. "This is a good community, good kids. That's what really drew me to it, good kids."
Bronte is currently working with 18 varsity players, 12 of which played last year. The Longhorns have been competitive the past two seasons with a playoff appearance in 2015 and a 5-5 record last season.
"I see [this season] going pretty good," said Bedford. "We're working really hard, and we have good team chemistry that I haven't seen in a while."
Bronte will open the season at home against Roby on Friday, Sept. 1. Its final 11-man regular season football game will be on Friday, Nov. 10 against Albany in Bronte.
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