Chapter 9: Martinsville, Myth and Mystery
THE KNIGHTS’ PRIZE for dispatching the undefeated Richmond Red Devils 23-7 in a first-round playoff game was a rematch against the undefeated Martinsville Artesians — a game that 30 years later would continue to live on in mythic proportions for both schools.
The over-confident Artesians had marched into Paradise the year before expecting to contend for the state championship and left Castle Stadium with their tail between their legs thanks to a 35-7 thrashing at the hands of the Knights. The Knights knew things wouldn’t be so easy on the Artesians home field, not with Martinsville’s mercurial coach Bill Siderewicz seeking revenge. They knew they would be in for a battle.
What the Knights didn’t know, however, was the fervor and passion of Martinsville for its high school football team. They learned quickly as the team bus entered the city limits and was met by a cavalcade of pickup trucks full of belligerent air-horn blaring, middle-finger-waving fans.
They would see that passion again as they stepped off the bus amid an endless and intimidating sea of red — as in the red-clad Artesian faithful — stretched before them. They would see it again as the crowd parted like the Red Sea allowing them a narrow path to make their way to the field. The Knights would be repeatedly reminded as the game progressed and the stadium seemed to burst at the seams.
With five lead changes and palpable tension in the air, the game would become one for the ages, an instant ESPN classic. It would be a game that would plant the words “Flea Flicker” forever into the lexicon of Indiana high school football, cementing the two schools together as willing participants in a moment of true football legend. It would also be a game that the Knights would lose in every fashion but the one that mattered most — the scoreboard.
The game would also come to embody the differing trajectories of the two disparate communities.
Castle country was on the rise, experiencing tremendous suburban growth thanks to an economic revitalization brought about by the construction of an enormous Alcoa plant east of Newburgh 25 years before. Martinsville, on the other hand, appeared to have stumbled into the 20th Century with a Mayberry kind of charm — if only it hadn’t been shackled by the mysterious and unsolved murder of a young African-American encyclopedia saleswoman fourteen years before.