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Jim Wharton Writes Book on Six-Man and Eight-Man Football

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See below for article by Rob Hamilton of the Morrow County Sentinel.

Click here to view article by Denny McPherson of the Marion Star.


Jim Wharton Writes Book on Six-Man and Eight-Man Football
By Rob Hamilton, Morrow County Sentinel

Have you ever heard of 6-man or 8-man high school football?

Unless your father, grandfather, uncle or another relative played it; or unless you’re over the age of 65, you probably haven’t.

Jim Wharton, who had two stints as sports editor for the Morrow County Sentinel in the 1990s, has just the thing for you if you’re curious about the sport played by Edison, Chesterville, Marengo, Sparta or Johnsville high schools between 1947 and 1961.

Wharton’s second book “Morrow County Football; 6-Man and 8-Man Style” is to be released later this month in conjunction with the opening of the 2010 high school football season.

“It’s just something that I wanted to do,” said Wharton, a Marengo or Sparta resident on and off since 1978 and a historian of Central Ohio football and basketball for 40-plus years. “The younger generation of football players needs to know how the game of football was played by their forefathers.”

Wharton, who published his first book ‘Harvesting Champions: From The Ground To The Crown, The Story of Highland High School Basketball’ in 1998 after the Scots won the state championship, interviewed over150 people for his latest endeavor.

“If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times since I started the project in January,” said Wharton, elected in 1995 to the Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame, “and that is they don’t remember their touchdowns, but they sure tell some great stories.”

First, we need to lay the foundation for 6-man and 8-man football.

While the game, designed for smaller schools which had considerably fewer players to pick from, was first ‘devised’ in the mid 30s, Ohio didn’t pick up on it until around 1940. The game came to Morrow County in 1947 when Chesterville and Johnsville fielded their first teams. Marengo, Edison and Sparta began playing in 1948. The schools that still had the sport switched to 8-man in 1959. The final year of playing football with less than 11 players per side was 1961.

During those years, the Morrow County schools played in the Double-M League, which, for most of those seasons, included Marion County schools. Three ‘outsiders’ – Waldo, Magnetic Springs and Prospect played in the league on and off for some of those years.

Wharton’s book deals with the Morrow County schools, its players, coaches, cheerleaders, homecoming queens and their community support groups.

“I’ve talked to all types,” said Wharton, who spent 26 years as either a sports writer, a sports editor or publisher before joining the Ohio High School Athletic Association staff in 1995. “I found three old coaches, one former principal, some cheerleaders, a couple of queens. If they had a football story to tell, I listened.

“Edison is an interesting story,” continued Wharton, who searched for and found every score of every game ever played by the five Morrow County schools. “They only played football at Edison one year. That amazed me when I dug that up. How strange!

“Sparta is another wild one,” continued Wharton, who retired two years ago after spending close to 14 years on the OHSAA staff. “They’re getting ready for the 1957 season; out there practicing in late August without a coach hired, and all of a sudden the superintendent said ‘that’s it, no football this year.’ They never had football again.”

Wharton used newspaper accounts of all the games and mixed those stories – big or small – with the thoughts of the players and/or coaches. While the score of every game was uncovered, many ‘box scores’ were never published in newspapers.

“You name the town, and I’ve been in the newspaper microfilm and public library there,” said Wharton, who began digging into central Ohio football and basketball history in 1969 when he first joined the sports staff of the Columbus Dispatch. “As I finished the book, I swear I could recite the names of every player at every school. If somebody would tell me so-and-so played for this school or that school, I sometimes said ‘no, don’t have that name.’ More often than not, I was right.”

School yearbooks, which Wharton said were not readily available for Marengo or Sparta, provided some help, but not much.

“Most yearbooks I’ve seen, and the Chesterville and Johnsville libraries have a complete collection from their respective schools, have pictures of each football team,” said Wharton. “But in many, many cases, there is no identification for the players in the picture.”

Help from a couple of graduates of each school allowed Wharton to track down former players.

“That, and whitepages.com,” said Wharton. “I found a lot of them, all over the country, by going online. When I started the project, I had no thought of being able to talk to former coaches or parents of players. But I had some interesting conversations with a couple of players’ mothers, and I found three former coaches; I even found a former Marengo principal right here in Mt. Gilead.”

What schools fared best on the gridiron in those years?

“They all had their cycles of success,” said Wharton, who has been the announcer for Sparta Highland football and both boys’ and girls’ basketball for several years. “But we’ll leave the answer to that question for the readers to determine.”

Wharton’s book is now available. Send a check or money order payable to: Jim Wharton, % JDW Publishing, P.O. Box 68, Marengo, OH 43334. The cost is $35.95, which includes shipping.