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The 72-student high school in Palo Pinto County will play for the 6-man football championship at AT&T Stadium Wednesday.

GORDON, Texas — Somehow, a town of about 500 people fills its thousand-seat high school football stadium each Friday night.

Just 72 students attend Gordon High School. Of them, 21 play football.

Shops close. Traffic stops. There isn’t much else for residents to do, coach Mike Reed said, jokingly.

“This is our entertainment,” he said. “We don’t go to a movie on a Friday night. We go watch whatever sporting event is going on. If we said, ‘Hey, we’re playing checkers or chess at 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon,’ we’d have 200 people watching.”

Hay bales, stacked and decorated to resemble a Gordon High School football player, stand near the Interstate 20 exit into town. Black and gold ribbons adorn mile markers that guide drivers to the community.

Gordon, about 70 minutes west of Fort Worth, does not have a traffic signal. A sign celebrating the high school’s 1996 and 1999 state championship football teams welcomes drivers who cross the city boundary.

Reed hopes to amend the sign this season.

Wednesday, the Gordon Longhorns play the Westbrook Wildcats for the Texas 1A-Division 1 six-man football state championship at AT&T Stadium.

The entire town will attend.

“Not many people get to do this, so it’s pretty cool,” freshman linebacker Hudson Campbell said.

Campbell’s father, Lyle, played for Gordon’s 1996 and 1999 state championship teams.

About a quarter of the Longhorn’s 2023 roster descended from someone who played on a previous championship team. Others have parents who were cheerleaders or drill team members those years.

“We’ve watched them all grow up and it’s just really special to see these guys go from the kids in the backyard to the men and warriors they are now,” said Jim Kostiha, a 1996 champion whose son, Noah, plays quarterback for Gordon.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, residents say there are similarities between the 2023 team and the prior champions.

“Work ethic and competitiveness and that fire to win,” Kostiha said. “These guys have it.”

“Work ethic,” Lyle Campbell said. “That’s a tradition.”

Reed and others say the team is an expression of the values the Gordon community holds close.

“Everybody here is middle class and hardworking,” said Jeremy Jackson, a 1996 champion whose son, Evan, is a sophomore center. “Everybody has to go to work and do their job. The kids see it. They see me leave at 5:30 a.m. They understand, you know, they’ve got to get up and grind as well.”

The team’s impressive speed helps, too. Six-man football is kind to fast teams.

Gordon is 14-0 this season.

“Since I was little, I just dreamed about winning state,” Noah Kostiha said. “Our dads have told us stories.”

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