It would be on the basketball court that the simmering Boonville-Castle rivalry would first be inflamed as the 1960s began. A 60-50 defeat of Boonville helped power the inaugural Castle basketball team to a 10-7 record and a chance to repeat Newburgh’s sectional title the season before. Boonville wasn’t about to easily allow that to happen against this upstart, especially with the sectional being played in the Pioneers’ new 4,200-seat gymnasium, a half-scale model of the University of Evansville basketball stadium.
Both teams made it through their sectional draws to meet in the Saturday night championship match, where a crowd of 3,500 spectators watched a nip-and-tuck battle and a late charge by Castle fall just short in Boonville’s 44-39 sectional championship victory.
In the following melee of a celebration, salt was added to the festering Castle wound when a group of Boonville players grabbed the Knights’ six-foot-tall paper Mache mascot from the Castle cheering section, dragged it to mid-court and speared it with its own lance. The Boonville-Castle rivalry had just kicked into high gear.
The rivalry would transfer to the gridiron as well.
Following a 13-6 loss to the Huntingburg High School Hunters, the 1-5 Knights would line up against the Pioneers, who weren’t having a glorious season either, coming in with a 1-7 record. But Boonville had a history to fall back on, having first fielded a football team way back in 1929.
An estimated 1,000 fans watched the history-making beginning of an overheated football rivalry at Boonville’s Hemenway Field. The game marked the first time in 56 years that the Pioneers would meet another Warrick County foe on the gridiron.
Boonville’s sloppiness, rather than Castle’s impressiveness, prevented the score from getting any worse than the 19-7 final. Despite two impressive touchdown runs by Pioneers sophomore Alan Per, Boonville dropped a number of passes and had two touchdowns called back because of penalties.
Excerpt from Chapter 7:Perfection!
Castle Knights defensive line coach Bob Rogers had grown up in Evansville, playing football and baseball for Bosse High School, where he would graduate from in 1969. The son of a custodian and a nurse’s aide, he went to the University of Evansville on a football scholarship to play defensive tackle. Without the scholarship, his blue-collar parents would never have been able to afford the tuition.
Graduating from UE in 1973 with a degree in art, Rogers didn’t set out to be a football coach. His passion was on the canvas. No, not the wrestling canvas, the kind that sits on an easel. His passion was art, and he wanted to teach it. Coaching football, he thought, would merely be icing on the cake.
He taught for a year at Evansville’s Lincoln Elementary School mainly because of a lack of high school openings. That changed by the following spring when Castle Athletic Director Dave Austill called UE football coach Jim Byers. Austill’s request was simple: Castle needed a football coach, but the only teaching position available was for art. Did Byers know of any good defensive line coaches who could also teach art?
Rogers was the only candidate Austill could find who fit both criteria, and soon found himself meeting with Austill for an interview. It really wasn’t even much of an interview as Austill basically just showed him around the recently constructed new high school building. Austill offered Rogers the job on the spot and Rogers accepted.
“I agreed because there just wasn’t anybody else knocking on my door,” Rogers laughed. ” They needed a football coach, baseball coach and an art teacher. They found all three in me.”
Excerpt from Chapter 5: Learning to Win
The team had heard the stories — ninth grade coach Marc Anderson was a little crazy.
“A little,” linebacker Pat Lockyear chuckled. “That’s an understatement.”
“Yeah,” Anderson said, “I guess you could say I was a little crazy back then.”
But the intense, clip-board-breaking, face-mask grabbing Anderson was more complex than simply crazy. The intelligent Anderson had a John McEnroe-type personality that refused to allow him, or his teams, to have even a moment of lacked concentration or all-out effort.
Anderson had known by the second grade that he was destined to be a coach — a wrestling coach. The only member of the Knights coaching staff at the time who hadn’t graduated from the University of Evansville, the Indiana University graduate had been employed for two years at Pike Central High School in Petersburg, Indiana, where he had started the school’s wrestling program from scratch.
Waking up one morning and enjoying his coffee and newspaper, Anderson came across an article that would change his life. The article in the Evansville Courier announced that the wrestling coach at Evansville Mater Dei High School had retired. Anderson immediately called Mater Dei, explaining to the athletic director how he had been a wrestler at IU and had started Pike Central’s wrestling program from scratch. The athletic director listened politely and then apologized, telling Anderson that he had just hired Mike Goebel, a former Mater Dei wrestler, away from Castle.
Anderson was crushed. Year after year, Mater Dei was one of the state’s top wrestling programs. Then the Mater Dei athletic director put some wind back in Anderson’s sails.
“Why don’t you call over to Castle right now,” he said. “I think they’re in a pinch.”
In fact, the athletic director said, he’d call over in advance if it would help. Giving the athletic director enough time to make the advance phone call, Anderson made his. Castle Athletic Director Tony Inzerello told Anderson to come down that very day to talk to him. Before the sun had set, Anderson was Castle’s new head wrestling coach and would assist with the freshman football team.
“It was a dream come true,” Anderson said. “Castle seemed like a big-time program coming from Pike Central.”
Anderson’s coaching antics would be talked about for years and still are a favorite topic of any player who played for him. Anderson believed as much in the mental side of athletics as the physical side. He believed in taking chances and his intensity was contagious.
“He was a tremendous motivator,” Lockyear said. “Anybody who knows wrestling coaches knows that he more than fit that mold.”
Lineman Mike Hoag would learn that the hard way. During one practice, Anderson grew wary of Hoag’s mistakes on the offensive line and put him on defense instead. Fearing he was losing his position, Hoag “went ballistic” and started taking his frustration out on the offensive players, including running back Dave Brosmer and quarterback Mike Davis. Coach Evers, who was growing concerned about Hoag hurting somebody, calmly told Anderson: “I think you better give him his position back.”
“We were all scared of him,” Hoag said. “He’d throw a football at your helmet if you messed up — and he had pretty good aim.”
But there was a method to Anderson’s madness, Lockyear said.
“He was very disciplined. He wouldn’t allow us to accept making mistakes. He wanted us to be perfect,” Lockyear said. “There was never a let up no matter the score or how bad we are beating a team. We were always expected to play and practice to our fullest.”
Excerpt from Chapter 5: Learning to Win
A creature of habit, assistant coach Jerry Sims believed in repetition upon repetition upon repetition in preparing his teams, often driving the players bonkers by requiring them in practice to run the same play over and over again until he got the consistent results he was seeking.
In practice one day, Sims had his players repeatedly running the Blast 32 play — a run up the gut that the players had been running as a team for years.
“Run it again!” he’d bellow if he saw even the smallest mistake. “Run it again!”
On a lark, Davis told his teammates in the huddle that after they ran the play forwards he wanted them to immediately run it backwards. To please Sims, they ran the Blast play again and as they stopped at the end, Davis yelled “hut” and the entire team ran it backwards through their previous pathways and back to their starting point.
“You’ve got to see this,” he said.
“Run it again!” he ordered his team. The team ran the play forwards and backwards to the entire coaching staff’s delight. Whenever the coaches would have a guest come to practice after that, Sims would direct his team to show off the backwards play.
“We’d run those plays so many times over the years that we could do them in our sleep,” Davis said. “We didn’t think about the importance of that kind of thing then, but when you’re in tough situations and tough games, you don’t have time to think; you just have to do it. Through repetition, he wanted to make those plays so natural for us that they came natural to us.”