The real Friday Night Lights

I have to direct you to this article on the front page of today's NY Times about Smith Center, Kansas, and their football team:

They are a high school football team, a superb one that has won 51 games in a row and three consecutive state championships, and has outscored opponents this season, 704-0. They are more than that, however, to the 1,931 people here who all know one another's names: The Redmen are proof that hard work and accountability still mean something.
The trading cards, for example, are not about hero worship. Each player and cheerleader signs a contract pledging to remain alcohol-, drug- and tobacco-free. If they break that promise, they must go to the elementary school to explain to the children why they were kicked off their team, and their cards are revoked.

My hometown, Norton, gets a quick mention in the article -- we have been one of Smith Center's rivals for many years, although in the past few they have no rival.

Leave it to the Times' fact-checkers, though:

The nearest McDonald's is 90 minutes away...

Yeah, except for the ones in Norton, Russell, Beloit, and Hastings, Nebraska!

I'll tell you what, though, I do love the Jiffy Burger.

It's this part that's incredible to me:

Barta is not even sure that this is the best Redmen team he has had. Not that long ago, Smith Center had more than 80 players and was in the bigger and more competitive Class 3A. In 1985, its conference, the Mid-Continent League, had three of its members win state championships - Norton (4A), Plainville (3A) and Victoria (2-1A).
Now, there are 46 Redmen, and they are playing in Class 2-1A. Two other Mid-Continent league schools will drop to the next and lowest class, eight-man football.

We were the big league -- there being lots of smaller schools interspersed among these towns that already played 8-man (or sometimes even 6-man!) football. But the bigger school districts are shrinking now. The demographic change is amazing.