Excerpt from Chapter 5: Learning to Win
DAVE BROSMER AND Pat Lockyear had known each other since kindergarten, and by the time fourth grade rolled around they were tight friends. The two youths would come to embody the toughness of the working-class town of Chandler, and they didn’t need anybody to tell them that they came from the wrong side of the tracks in Castle Country.
“The toughness of Chandler is what made us,” Brosmer said. “We were the rough, poor kids, and (the Newburgh kids) were the rich, spoiled kids. That’s just the way it was, at least from our point of view.”
Brosmer and Lockyear were starting their fourth-grade years when a new junior football league for fourth, fifth and sixth graders in Chandler and Newburgh began its inaugural season. As fourth graders, the two wouldn’t get a lot of playing time in the Saturday morning games, but there couldn’t have been a better setting for their development. The fourth graders that first season would be the seniors on the 1982 state champion Knights, the first class to benefit from the three extra years of organized football that the junior league provided.
After a brief league tryout in the Chandler Elementary gym, the coaches selected their squads. It would be a heck of a draft for the Vikings — who secured not only the young Brosmer and Lockyear, but also a sixth grader named Steve Biggs, who would later earn a full-ride football scholarship at Western Kentucky University. In all seven players from that initial Chandler Vikings team would play significant roles in the Castle football program leading up to the 1982 state championship team.
Their coach, Damon Monks, knew a couple of things about football. The Bristol Meyers Squibb worker had been a member of Castle’s first football squads in the early 1960s when the team was a punching bag for more experienced programs. Joined by fellow coach Jerry Gill, a talented high school athlete himself who would handle the Vikings backs, Monks concentrated on the lineman.
It was a coaching marriage made in football heaven.
“It was just came together and couldn’t have worked out much better,” Monks said.
Well, it could have started a little bit better. The Vikings began their gridiron existence with a tough 6-0 loss to the Chandler Rams, but would then charge unchallenged through the rest of their six-game schedule against the Rams as well as the Newburgh Chiefs and Newburgh Chargers to finish as League champs with a 5-1 record.
At 10 years old, Dave Brosmer and Pat Lockyear were already champions.
IN THE LEAGUE’S second season the number of teams increased to four with the addition of the Cardinals and Cowboys in Chandler and the Saints and Raiders in Newburgh.
The Vikings of Brosmer and Lockyear, joined by the younger Chris Brosmer, would easily run through the schedule unchallenged. At 6-0, this time the Vikings would have to earn the title in a championship game dubbed the Junior Bowl under the lights at Castle Stadium where they would face the Newburgh Saints.
For elementary school kids who played their games on Saturday afternoons on a weed-choked field before maybe 100 fans, the thought of playing under the lights at the high school stadium was the thrill of a lifetime — the feeling league officials had hoped for.
Amid an icy drizzle late in a scoreless game, the Vikings coaching staff had called a pass play, but quarterback Reuben Weiss changed the call in the huddle. Weiss wasn’t bucking authority. He was worried about being able to grip the ball to make the throw and the receiver’s ability to catch the ball.
Instead, Weiss took the snap, faked a step back and scampered through a hole in the line for a four-yard touchdown that would be all the Vikings would need as they held off future Castle star linebacker Rodney Russell’s Saints by a 6-0 score.
Lockyear and Dave Brosmer were now two-time champions (with a 12-1 career record) while Chris Brosmer had just earned his first taste of glory.
AS THE LEAGUE’S third season began, the Vikings were once again expected to vie for the Junior League championship.
Monks knew they were good, but worried that his players were starting to believe it as well. His concerns were realized when he felt his players were merely going through the motions during a game against the league doormat Cowboys — a game they led 21-0 at halftime.
While the Cowboys sat in the shade sipping cool drinks at halftime, Monks ran his two-time champs up a hill next to the field. Monks got their attention. With a crisper 28-point second half, the Vikings cruised to a 49-0 victory.
“I don’t remember that particular incident,” Monks laughed, “but I don’t doubt that it happened.”
With their focus renewed, the Vikings once again stormed to an undefeated 6-0 regular season and would face the Newburgh Raiders in the Junior Bowl. In three seasons of organized football, Dave Brosmer and Lockyear were 18-1 (a 94.7 percent winning percentage) and two-time champions.
Still, Monks knew beating the Raiders would be a daunting task and practiced his team well past dark all week on a field lit by automobile headlights.
The Raiders had squeaked by a Newburgh Chiefs team led by a hard-as-nails running back named Joe Dillman to reach the championship game. Dillman was literally a man among boys, the kind of running back that inflicted pain and brought stars. Most of Dillman’s friends swear he sported six-pack abs and was shaving by fifth grade.
“You didn’t really tackle Joe,” Raiders running back and future Castle fullback Neil Chapman said. “He just ran over you and hopefully he fell down in the process.”
THE RAIDERS WERE quarterbacked by first-year player Mike Davis, who had lived his first years in Boonville where his father was a Baptist minister. Davis had spent most of the summer begging his skeptical mother to allow him to play tackle football.
The game was nothing new to the tall, angular Davis. He’d been playing backyard football for years, but he wasn’t prepared for the organized game — at least when it came to footwear. The embarrassed Davis showed up for his first practice wearing metal baseball cleats. The embarrassment wouldn’t last long.
By his second practice, he had the right footwear and was about to have his football career defined for him as the coaches lined the entire team up and had each player throw a dozen passes. They were looking for a quarterback and quickly found one in Davis. One of the biggest players on his team, the 98-pound Davis barely qualified for playing quarterback in the league, which had a 100-pound weight limit for skill-position players.
Along with Chapman, the Raiders also sported a tough precocious linebacker named Joe Huff. Even though Huff was a skinny fifth grader, no one ever doubted his toughness or drive — because Huff wouldn’t let them. Before every practice the Raiders players would run a warm-up lap around a baseball backstop, a run that most everyone would run at three-quarters speed — except for Huff.
“He won that damn race every time,” Chapman said. “Even after awhile, when somebody would try to challenge him, he always won it. It killed us.”
THE JUNIOR BOWL was the first time Chapman saw in person the vaunted Brosmer brothers, the dynamic duo of the Chandler Vikings whom he had heard about all season. The game, which would become one-sided as Davis led his Raiders to a 22-6 win, would be the toughest loss in the young football careers of Lockyear and the Brosmer brothers. It would be a taste, they wouldn’t enjoy.
Monks could have no have idea that the three — along with Davis, Chapman and Huff — would one day change the face of Southern Indiana football, but he was well aware that he couldn’t have had a “better bunch” of Vikings players — a group that seemed to love football and all that came with it.
Monks wasn’t new to coaching, having coached baseball for several years. In that time, he’d seen a lot of young athletes, plenty of whom couldn’t wait for practice to end — but not this group.
“These guys, you couldn’t wear them out,” Monks said. “They were never in a hurry to leave practice and go home. You just couldn’t give them too much. It didn’t matter how many times you’d run them up that hill, they just seemed to like it.”
“Like” might be a “strong word,” Lockyear laughed.
Monks’ coaching of Lockyear and the Brosmer brothers would end right there, but he was never far away. He continued to follow their progress through junior high and high school, never missing a game.
“It was special to see them succeed,” Monks said.
Neither Lockyear nor Brosmer, though, weren’t thinking that far ahead. Instead, they were looking forward to seventh grade so could play with Mike Davis rather than against him.