THE DAY OF THE TEAM’S first seventh grade game against the Mt. Vernon Wildcats, quarterback Mike Davis was home sick with bronchitis. The fledgling Castle Squires had lost their starting quarterback without playing a single down.
Backup quarterback Kevin Knapp was pressed into action and was moving the Squires down the field late in the scoreless game, when on a pitch out, the ball bounced off running back Dave Brosmer and right into the hands of Wildcat speedster Daryl Givens, who raced the other way for a 90-yard touchdown.
Split back Neil Chapman gave chase, but his lunging grab at midfield came up short and Givens raced into the end zone for a 6-0 Wildcat lead. The stunned Squires would lose by the same score.
For years, Chapman would remember that moment, wishing he’d made the tackle.
“If there was ever one moment I wish I could have back, it was that one,” Chapman said. “I wish I had made that tackle.”
It wasn’t Chapman’s fault, Brosmer said.
“That was on me. I should have held on.”
Davis disagreed.The loss, he said, was his fault.
“I’ve always felt that if I had been there we wouldn’t have lost,” Davis said, adding that after that game, it would have taken an act of God to keep him out of a football game.
Meanwhile, Brosmer and linebacker Pat Lockyear, who had won 18 of 20 games in junior league football, had now suffered their second loss in a row (including the Junior Bowl loss to the Raiders in sixth grade).
“We hadn’t lost much in three years and now we’d lost two in a row,” Lockyear said. “We knew our leader wasn’t there, but we just didn’t step up enough. It was a taste we didn’t want to have in our mouth again.”
ATHLETES AND COACHES will rarely admit that any loss was a good experience, but if there ever was one, maybe that one was it.
Because of that game “we knew what it was like to lose, and we didn’t want to feel that way again,” defensive back Rodney Russell said.
The Squires would rebound the next week and roll undefeated through their remaining schedule, including a hard-fought 14-7 victory over archrival Boonville.
Russell started the season on the bench, but would get his chance to start at “monster back” (essentially a roving safety) when Knapp was injured at mid-season. It was all the opportunity Russell needed, and he was a starter from then on.
Coach Johnny Evers was the first person to put the possibility of a state championship in the young players’ minds when he took several players to the championship game that season.
“He was basically letting us know that this (the state championship game) was where we wanted to be,” Brosmer said. “He never said it, but that thought stuck in our minds. He knew what he was doing.”
In December, a plane carrying the University of Evansville basketball team crashed immediately after takeoff from Evansville’s Dress Regional Airport, killing all aboard. It was a tough time for Evers. During his senior year at UE, Evers was the resident assistant in the basketball players’ dorm. Many of the young men on that plane were his personal friends.
To add to the macabre moment, Evers remembered back to his tough career decision a couple years before where he had bypassed a chance to take the assistant sports information director job at UE to be a seventh grade football coach. Had he stayed at UE, he most likely would have been the school’s sports information director that season — and would have been on that plane.
“When I heard the news, all I could do was just look into the mirror and wonder,” he said. “Sometimes fate has plans you don’t understand.”