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11-man football: SMCC an old-timer among county teams

Butch Wagner
Nov 2, 2013
There is an interesting twist involving St. Mary’s (now St. Mary Central Catholic) football when it comes to active Erie County members of the Sandusky Bay Conference.

The Panthers — so-called for the first time in 1936 — have been playing football since 1924, and have been in the SBC since the start of the 1950-51 school year.

Tonight marks the 425th SBC game for the Panthers, and No. 833 in the 90-year history of the school’s football program.

That’s the 11-man sport!

There’s no comparison to the Sandusky High School program, which dates back to the 1890s, and the Streaks have 655 all-time victories.

However, Huron and Margaretta first competed on the gridiron on the six-man level which came into play for the Tigers in 1939, then Margaretta. Berlin Heights and Birmingham followed suit a short time later.

I recall going to Strobel Field as a youngster in the 1940s to see firsthand what six-man football was all about.

The offensive makeup was a center, two ends, a quarterback, halfback and a fullback.

There were doubleheaders on occasions, and the teams lit up the scoreboard quite often as expected with the running game a major part of the attack.

In fact, a six-man game was played a Strobel Field as the first part of the twinbill, followed by a Sandusky High School contest.

It wasn’t until 1948 that Huron moved into the 11-man format, followed by Margaretta a year later according to reports.

Berlin Heights and Milan decided to join the 11-man circle and Birmingham dropped out.

Milan did not have six-man football and field its first squad in 1957, and apparently played Berlin Heights. The latter had an easy win.

Edison High School — the merger between Milan and Berlin Heights school districts— came on the scene in 1968.

As for the SBC, Margaretta left the Lakeland Conference and replaced Carey in the 1963-64 school year as the eighth member with Clyde, Fremont St. Joe, Gibsonburg, Lakota, Oak Harbor, St. Mary’s and Tiffin Calvert.

Huron followed in 1966 to make it a nine-school alignment with the likes of Clyde, Fremont St. Joe, Fostoria St. Wendelin, Gibsonburg, Lakota, Margaretta, Oak Harbor and St. Mary’s.

Edison finally joined the SBC at the outset of the 1986 school year and that was the last change for the membership until SMCC notified conference officials (president and other school principals) it was time to leave, primarily because of the inability to compete favorably with the other SBC teams in football.

While the SBC continues to search for a replacement, SMCC finds itself in the Sandusky River League which now numbers six teams, and two — Old Fort and New Riegel — do not have football.

Who knows what the future holds, both for SMCC and the SBC? One thing is certain: it won’t be the same around the area when it’s Friday Night Lights (or Saturday for that matter) for SMCC in 2014, and after.

It’s already a given the Panthers will not face Perkins on the field after tonight, and probably other SBC schools as well.



Butch, you're still a better writer than everyone else currently employed at the RAG. It's always a pleasure reading your work!!!