Bird City, Kansas, population 487, is located in extreme Northwest Kansas and is the home to the Cheylin High School Cougars.
Cheylin, who has an enrollment of 42 kids based on the KSHSAA count last month through four grades, also plays 6-man football. The towns of Bird City and McDonald feed into Cheylin High School.
6-man football is not yet affiliated with KSHSAA as just 12 schools play it in Kansas as of the 2019 season. However, 6-man football and its future may look bright as many poplulation’s in towns and enrollments in 8-man schools simply do not have enough to field an 8-man team.
Current schools with 6-man in include Cheylin, Ashland, Fowler, Rolla, Moscow, Cunningham, Deerfield, Pawnee Heights, Weskan, Natoma, Golden Plains and Western Plains. Most of the schools would be all considered Western Kansas.
6-man football is also producing some stars and one of those hails from Bird City at Cheylin High School in junior standout Colton McCarty.
The 6-foot-0, 180-pounder, can play most positions on the field but shines at quarterback, defensive back, linebacker, kick returner and punt returner for the Cheylin Cougars, led by head coach Chris Walden.
Now is where the eye opening numbers will start. McCarty has rushed for 1,349 yards this season on 92 carries (14.7 ypc_ while rushing for 22 total touchdowns in five weeks. He has also passed for 636 yards with 11 touchdowns (2 INT) with a 66 percent completion percentage. He also has two receiving touchdowns and we are pretty sure he didn’t throw those to himself. McCarty does it all on Friday nights in small town Kansas.
On the defensive side of the ball, he has also picked up two interceptions and 36 tackles. As a special teamer, he has 270 total return yards. McCarty has scored in six different ways already this season (passing, rushing ,recieving, interception, punt return, kickoff return).
McCarty is also an outstanding student with a 4.0 GPA. He plans to play football at the next level but he still has the rest of this year and an entire senior season left to get his name out there to the recruiters across the state.
The most important thing is that his team is 5-0 this season and looking to make a run at the 6-man state title later on in the season in Dodge City. Last season Weskan beat Golden Plains, 75-44, in the title game. Cheylin, who finished 4-4, was knocked out by Pawnee Heights (118-85) in the first round last season. This season Cheylin returned five starters on each side of the ball. Pretty good number when we are talking only six players on the field at the same time.
While the scores are a little crazy and the stats may be as well, the most important thing, there is still a pride in these communities by getting to play football as their high schools. Many across the state have had to co-op, consolidate or simply don’t have the numbers to get to the 8-man level. That is not the case in Cheylin and these 12 other programs with the continued expansion of 6-man football in Kansas. Burrton, Northern Valley and Greeley County will go to 6-man on the next cycle as well forming 15 teams. We caught up with McCarty below to learn a little bit more about him in the lastest Q&A edition of Faces in Kansas.
How did you get involved in football?
I got involved with football at a very young age as a toddler playing catch with my dad in the house. When I got older I started to play flag football and just fell in love with the sport. Now I am super blessed and thankful that I get to play this sport I love ever Friday night.
What are your goals this season?
My goal this season is to make it to the State Championship and win. I have wanted to win since I was in grade school. When we played for the State Championship my freshman year this was a dream come true, but we fell short and didn't win. Now I am looking to make the title game again, to fulfill my dream and win it with my teammates for our school.
Do you guys have a shot to make a run this year?
I think this year is a great opportunity for us to make a run for the title and the guys in our locker room think so too. This year we have 5 offensive and defensive starters back, which means we have a lot of experience returning. We also gained a few more players going into this season who can fill in well when starters need a break.
What makes you such a force as a player?
I think I am a force as a player offensively because I am a dual threat QB . I can hurt you with my legs and speed and then turn around and hurt you with my arm. I also have a good burst of speed that I can use to get around the edge when defenders are forcing me to the sideline. I can also put a move on you when using my speed to get in away from defenders and into the open. On the defensive side of the ball I can be a force in pass coverage because I can cover well and then I have my speed to catch someone if they break loose.
What’s the atmosphere like to play football on Friday night for your school and town?
The atmosphere in our town is amazing. My team and myself couldn't ask for a better small town in Kansas to play for. Every friday night you can just tell the towns of Bird City and McDonald are out supporting us. Even on the road for our away games we always have a nice sized crowd there to support us. On the weekends or during the week following the game people in the community are always telling us great game or you guys played really well.
For anyone that hasn’t seen one of your games, why come to one?
6-man football is just a fast and crazy game. This sport is so fun to watch with a lot of big plays on both sides of the ball. If you love watching points being scored in football come watch 6-man football. The creativity in play calling is amazing on offense since everyone is pass eligible. If you like defense come watch because there are big defensive plays, big time hits and stops in 6-man football.
Who are other key players on your team?
Key players on my team are Miguel Gonzalez(Sr.) who plays center and nose guard. He is an absolute force to try to get around when at center and on defense he is a load to try to block. Andrew Schields(Jr.) plays fullback, wide receiver, and defensive end. Drew is one of the guys on the offensive ball who takes a lot of beating for me. He gets a lot of the lead blocks for me that help me score. Drew is also one of my most dependable receivers on the team. On the defensive side of the ball he is makes a lot of big plays. Alex Dart(Jr.) plays tight end and defensive end. Alex is a good tight end who always gets his blocks. When we are passing it he finds the open spaces in the defense. This makes him one of my favorite people to throw to when I'm scrambling around. On defense Alex does a good job of keeping his contain and stretching plays out. Tyler Sabataka(Jr.) plays wide receiver and safety. Ty is a speed receiver which makes him another one of my favorite targets to throw to when he has a mismatch. Ty's speed also helps him get wide open and behind coverage. On defense Ty does a good job of coming up and hitting when teams are running the ball and also a great job in pass coverage. Joseph Melton(Jr.) who plays linebacker and running back. Joe is a good running back who we give the ball to and always gets positive yardage. He is also another good lead blocker who helps me get into the endzone. On defense Joe is a physical linebacker who isn't afraid to hit. These are our key players on our team but I can't forget about the other players on our team that give us offensive and defensive looks in practice for game planning. These guys help us getting prepared for our games and help us practice at a high level everyday. All my teammates push me to be my best every practice and game.
Favorite thing about football?
My favorite thing about football is making big plays on both sides of the ball and winning games as a team. I just love getting my teammates involved and making plays with them. Nothing beats playing football with my best friends on friday nights.
Do you play any other sports, tell us about that, what other positions do you play?
I play basketball and I have started at point guard since my freshman year. I am also a 100m, 200m, and 400m sprinter on our track team.
What is it like to play for your coach?
I love playing for Coach Walden because he pushes myself and my team every practice and every game. He wants to make all of us better and perform at a high level every game. When he gets really excited on the sidelines when we make a good play it gets you even more excited as a player. Nothing can beat your head coach being fired up and jumping around for you and your teammates.
What did you and the team do in the off-season to become better?
In the off-season I attended our team football camp but I also attended a quarterback camp in Garden City and the Sharp Performance Top Prospect Showcase. As a team we had our summer weights that Coach Walden ran. The weight lifting we did this summer helped us get a lot faster and stronger before going into the football season. I also got our team around in the evenings towards the end of the summer to condition and work on route running.
What interest are you seeing at the next level and what are your plans?
I have interest from JUCO's, NAIA schools and D-3 schools in football currently. My plan is to play football at the next level for a school that is willing to give me the chance to compete.
Favorite thing to do when you aren’t playing sports?
During the summer I lifted and worked a summer job to keep me busy and in shape. I also spent a lot of time with my family and friends. When I'm not playing sports on the weekends I usually play videogames with my friends or watch sports with my friends or family.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I want to have graduated from college with a degree in physical therapy and off to good start in my career in that field. I hope to stay involved with sports to some capacity as well.
Favorite subject in school, what type of student are you, GPA?
My favorite subject in school is science. I absolutely love science, learning about how things function and interact together is very interesting. As a student I am very focused on academics, in my house my parents always preached academics before sports. My parents always told me they wouldn't let me play even if I was passing classes if they felt like I wasn't putting my best effort into it. That really pushed me to have all A's and to have a 4.0 GPA, which I currently have this year.
Who is your role model?
I have two role models and those are my parents. My parents are my role models because they push me to do my best in school and sports. I also look up to them for advice because they were both student athletes in college and have gone through a lot of the same things. My parents are willing to do anything for me to support my dreams. No matter what I could do in the future I don't think I would ever be able to pay them back. I am super blessed and thankful for them.
Best place to eat in your town or the surrounding area?
The best place to eat in my town is Big Eds Steakhouse in Bird City, KS. Big Eds has some of the best steaks you will have in your life. My parents have friends who come back to hunt from Pennsylvania and there favorite part of coming out is getting a steak from Big Eds.
One thing the average person wouldn’t know about you?
The average person wouldn't know that I am very OCD. I feel I have to have everything perfect when I do something.