A Town Too Tough To Die
This story originally ran on ESPN.com
omecoming week is full of activity in Cody, Nebraska, population 155. There's a parade, a pep rally, the crowning of the homecoming court, a bonfire, a dance and girls' volleyball games, which are as important and well-supported as the football game itself.
This is Nebraska's ranch country. There are more cattle than people, and there are really not that many cattle when you consider the number of acres it takes to sustain them.
In this part of the country, school consolidation brings students from several towns together to form one high school. Cody and Kilgore, two tiny towns that sit 20 miles apart, are chief among them. The football team is something for the communities to rally around. Everyone is part of the family and part of the celebration of the intersection of sport and rural culture.
At Cody-Kilgore High School, they play six-man football, a wide-open game in which literally everybody has an opportunity to handle the ball. There's constant motion and a shorter, narrower field. Five of the six players on offense are eligible receivers. There are only 14 schools playing six-man football in Nebraska, as compared with the 234 six-man teams in Texas. The teams travel long distances for every away game, and crossing hundreds of miles on a bus for one game is not uncommon.
Cody is a tough little town. And, as ranchers in the early morning and evening hours and student-athletes during the day, Cody's football players are just as tough.