Most football fans know that there are eleven men on each team. Quite a few don't remember the days when a football player had to play on both offense and defense. In the small towns of Georgia before World War II, high schools had a hard time getting enough boys to outfit an eleven-man team. County School Superintendent Elbert Mullis first began organizing football teams in the county high schools in 1938. The first two teams were Brewton and Cedar Grove. In 1939, Rentz, Cadwell, and Dexter began to organize their teams. In 1940, the Laurens County - Oconee League went into full swing.
Typical Six-Man formation
Members of the original 1938 Brewton team were: Quinton Holland, J.W. Sapp, James Daniels, Jack Kyzer, Eddie Sammons, Victor Moye, Ralph Kaney, Hodges Curl, Eugene Fowler, Warren Sapp, Nathan Graham, Septon Walker, Junior Jackson, I.T.Garnto Jaudon Dollar, J.B. Wynn, James Rawls and Roy Graham.
Their coach was a young, recent graduate of Dublin High School, Gene Heckle, who had been a star football player there in the mid 1930s. The boys played what was called six-man football. There were no guards nor tackles on the offensive line - only a center and two ends. In the backfield, there was a quarterback and two running backs. In some games there was only one referee, who obviously had to be in good shape to cover the entire field - there was no instant replay. Sometimes coaches from other teams officiated.
Heckle's charges did well that first season. On December 2, 1938, the boys from Brewton played Soperton High in Soperton. Boosted by three touchdowns from their star player, 187-pound quarterback J.W. Sapp, Brewton jumped out to 20-0 half time lead. The Brewton sextette held on in the second half to earn a 20-18, close, hard fought victory.
That win put Brewton in the county championship against Cedar Grove on the following Saturday, but not before a "tune up" victory over Girard High the day before. Cedar Grove and Brewton met at the 12th Distirct Fairgrounds at Telfair and Troup streets for what was also known as the East Georgia league championship. Cedar Grove won the first game 18-0 and Brewton took the second 24-0. For the rubber match, the famed Laurens County Marching Band, a 60-piece aggregation of county school bandsmen under the direction of A.T. Morris, provided musical entertainment before and during the game. Heath and Purvis starred for Cedar Grove in a 43-12 victory. Meanwhile, Colquitt High School defeated Soperton, 28-0 to capture the first ever six man football title in Georgia history.
CEDAR GROVE TEAMThe year 1939 was a rebuilding season for both the team and the school, which had burned but was rebuilt during the autumn and early winter. With only four games on their schedule, home and away against Cedar Grove and Soperton, the Brewton band of brothers would compete against three other teams for the Oconee Six Man League championship. The 1940 Brewton team almost crossed the entire county to play their rival Cedar Grove team. The Brewton squad came out on top 20-16 with the big score coming on a touchdown return by Wynn of Brewton. No other results of that year's games were reported in the Dublin Courier Herald or the Macon Telegraph.
The second game of the 1940 season was a rematch between Brewton High School and Cedar Grove. Warren Sapp scored the first touchdown for Brewton and Keiver Jordan threw a touchdown pass to Victor Moye. Cedar Grove scored a safety early in the game and scored once on a touchdown by right end Manus. Brewton held on for a 12 to 8 game. Neither team converted an extra point.
Brewton continued its undefeated season on Oct. 20th with a 30 to 14 victory over Dexter at the latter's home field. Warren Sapp drove through the center on the second play of the game for the first score. Moye scored on a pass from Jordan. Jordan scored a few minutes later on a quarterback run. Jack Sapp returned an interception for a touchdown for Brewton. Moye ran nearly the entire length of the field, dodging several Dexter tacklers. Frost and English scored for Dexter.
Brewton smashed Dexter 41 to 8. Frost scored the only touchdown for Dexter, while Jack Sapp, Victor Moye, Swinton Walker, Keiver Jordan, and Warren Sapp, all scored for Brewton. Brewton, led by Swinton Walker and Warren Sapp, followed with a solid 25 to 13 victory over Rentz. Bracewell scored two touchdowns for the losers. In a second game against Rentz on their home field, Brewton, led by Swinton Walker's two touchdowns, won 15 to 12 over the Rentz Yellowjackets, coached by David Frazier. Jordan passed to Maddox for the final score of the game to cinch the last-minute, come from behind victory.
The county championship came down to one game. It would be played on a neutral field in Dublin. Coach Eugene Heckle's boys and Coach Bob Shuler's Cadwell Bulldogs had split their season series, 1-1, with each team winning their home games. The winner of the game would meet the champion of the Southwest Georgia Football Association for the state championship the next Friday night.
Brewton's offense exploded in the first three quarters. Victor Moye ran back and forth across the field for a forty yard run down to the Cadwell one yard line. When the game ended, the score was Brewton 61, Cadwell 19. Scoring for Brewton were Moye, 3 touchdowns, Walker, Jack Sapp, and Jordan, with 2 touchdowns each. Warren Sapp kicked three extra points and Moye caught one pass for an extra point. With the score 43-0 at the start of the fourth quarter, Cadwell's Bedingfield tried to catch up all by himself. He scored three touchdowns and one extra point in the final stanza, but to no avail.
Brewton, 8-1, met Cuthbert High in Cuthbert for the state title on December 5, 1940. During the season the Brewton team were eight and one. They scored 261 points to their opponent's 106. Brewton's lineup in the title game was: Keiver Jordan, at quarterback; Jack Sapp, at halfback; Warren Sapp, at fullback; Roy Graham, at center; Victor Moye, the team captain at right end; and Swinton Walker, at left end. The reserves were made up of Junior Watson, at quarterback; Donald Tipton, at end; Roger Green, at halfback; Stacey Lake, at end; Truett Fort, at fullback; and Albert Garnto, at halfback. Playing quarterback for Cuthbert was Charlie Waller, a former Dublin boy and an All-American candidate headed to the University of Alabama. Waller who was a star footballer for Dublin in the two previous years, led in his league, the So-we-ga, in many offensive categories.
The championship game between the champs of the Oconee League and the Southwest Georgia league wasn't even close. Waller, tied a state record and personally defeated his friends from the east side of the river, scoring seven touchdowns and leading his Cuthbert team to a 90-6 smashing defeat of the Brewton squad.
The coming of World War II put an end to six-man football in Laurens County. Never would the Boys of Brewton put on a football uniform again. But, it was on the December Saturday, seventy five years ago that the boys made it to the title game as runners up in the Georgia Six-Man Football crown.