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Former Star-Telegram staffer has a winner in new Texas high school football docuseries

Fort Worth Star-Telegram logoFort Worth Star-Telegram 11/24/2020 Mac Engel, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Since Buzz Bissinger chronicled/exposed Permian High School in Friday Night Lights in 1988, the football team documentary slowly became its own genre to the point where it’s almost cliche.

When former Fort Worth Star-Telegram videographer and filmmaker Jared Christopher, who received a Lonestar Emmy for his work on the popular Titletown, TX documentary series on the Aledo High School football team, was approached about finding something similar he wasn’t crazy about it.

“You have seen so many football documentaries now. Inner city schools. NFL seasons. The college teams. The top recruit,” Christopher said in a phone interview. “If I was going to do it, I needed to find something that was beyond that. Someone mentioned to me 6-man football. I had never heard of it.”

In the fall of 2018, Christopher was introduced to Texas 6-man power, Strawn and its coach Dewaine Lee.

“Nobody outside of 6-man football knows we exist,” Lee told Christopher.

Lee wanted Christopher to do for Strawn what he had done for Aledo.

Lee promised all-access throughout not just for the locker room, but the entire town. All 676 people. At the church. In the class room. At Mary’s Cafe.

A project that began in 2018 was initially not warmly received by the West Coast types who launch big projects, until it was bought by CBS. It will soon be a part of the All Access documentary series from CBS Sports.

Texas 6 will launch on Thanksgiving. The eight-episode series will feature a new show every Thursday through the end of the 2020.

Christopher is actually not quite finished with every episode. The Burleson resident is currently going through the fun of 16-hour days editing to finish the series.

The irony, of course, is that when Christopher started this shooting series he had no one interested in watching it, much less spending a dime to fund it.

Even when no media company expressed any interest, he just went ahead and started shooting it in the hopes that someone would see it and grab it.

To cover some of the expenses, Christopher would shoot weddings, dental conferences, anything to keep filming in Strawn.

“This is not Friday Night Lights. This is the lowest classification of football in Texas,” Christopher said. “I just had to get one person to see the stories.”

Eventually, the CEO of Max Preps saw Christopher’s initial trailer, and then he knew he had a potential backer. Projects like these often bounce off multiple walls, and tables, before finding a home.

Christopher knew he had a winner, but it was going to take someone to see beyond a form of football that is unlike anything in sports.

“This isn’t about football, but kids and a disappearing way of life in rural America,” Christopher said. “You can find a family in sports. A lot of these kids have broken homes, and the football team becomes the family.

“It’s a group of kids who wanted to be desired, and this coach who does not have kids who desires to be needed. You see this beautiful connection between the kids and the coach who fulfill each other’s needs.”

Strawn is not unlike thousands of other small towns in rural America that cling to existence.

Opportunity is elsewhere. Those who stay work at a local brick factory, Mary’s Cafe, the post office or the school district.

Most of the kids who play on the team are unfamiliar with anything beyond Strawn, which is located 75 miles southwest of Fort Worth. Weatherford would be the first major city they’ve visited, if they’ve actually made the 48-minute drive there.

Coach Lee and Strawn promised Christopher unlimited access, and what he’s produced is a genuine, raw, and sometimes uncomfortable, series about tiny town America.

“Texas 6” is not another Friday Night Lights type docuseries, but a look into a piece of America and Americans who exist but are too often ignored.

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©2020 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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