Feb 07

“The Road to Paradise” outline

Chapter 10:The Way the Ball Bounces

HALFWAY THROUGH THE second quarter, the Castle Knights are holding the powerful Hobart Brickies without a first down in a game they are leading 14-7.

With the ball at midfield, quarterback Mike Davis is surprised by the play being sent into the huddle — 600 Flea Flicker.  Hobart no doubt knows it’s coming and might be looking for it at the end of the game, but not here with Castle leading. Davis takes the snap and launches a perfect missile to junior receiver Deon Chester, who flicks the ball effortlessly to senior running back Dave Brosmer streaking by. A few seconds later, Brosmer crosses the goal line for a 50-yard touchdown and a 20-7 lead.

The Hobart side of the stadium sits in silent shock. This is not supposed to be happening.

The Brickies squeak out a wobbly 40-yard field goal right before halftime to cut the lead to 20-10. It’s an ugly score, but it represents more than three points; the Brickies have taken momentum into the locker room.

The Knights, who have dominated nearly every facet of the game so far, fail to show up for the third quarter. Whether it’s because they haven’t caught their second wind, or because the play calling has become too conservative, or because special teams miscues are too much to overcome — whatever the reason — the Brickies score two touchdowns to take their first lead with nine-and-a-half minutes left in the game.

Suddenly finding themselves down 23-20 in a game they have thoroughly dominated, the Knights have nine-and-a-half minutes to right the ship and make history. Nine-and-a-half minutes separate them from a lifetime of prideful accomplishment or a lifetime of regret.

How would they respond?

Next — Chapter 11: Exorcising the Ghosts of Carmel

Feb 06

“The Road to Paradise” outline

 

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.

Castle Coach Bob Rogers hugs receiver Deon Chester after Castle defeats Martinsville with a flea flicker.Next — Chapter 10: The Way the Ball Bounces

Feb 05

“The Road to Paradise” outline

Chapter 8: One More Score

DESPITE THE KNIGHTS DOMINATION of the Brickies so far, holding them without a first down through the first quarter, the game is tied. It’s now a 36-minute game with momentum on Hobart’s side. How would Castle respond? Would they lie down like the experts predicted and take their 13-1 season as a major step forward, or would they, like the tiring boxer, keep punching away, trying to knock the wind out of their much larger opponent?

They chose to fight back, marching down the field where they ultimately find themselves with a fourth-and-four at the Brickies’ 23-yard line. Facing a 40-yard field goal into the wind, Coach Lidy eschews the kick and keeps his offense on the field, calling the Reverse 47 Pass play. Why not? It had worked before on the game’s opening play. Maybe it would work again. The Knights would keep running the play until the Brickies found a way to stop it.Castle kicker Matt McDowell attempts a field goal against the Hobart Brickies

Davis takes the snap, offering two fake handoffs into the line before his pass finds Dave Brosmer at the five-yard line. As the senior running back waltzes into the end zone untouched for the touchdown, the Knights have answered the bell, the critics and themselves. They have responded. Second place won’t be good enough.

With seven-and-a-half minutes left in the first half, the Knights have a 14-7 lead in a game the entire Indiana football universe expects them to lose and lose big. The Knights have seized the momentum right back. Could they keep it?

Next — Chapter 9: Martinsville, Myth and Mystery

Feb 04

“The Road to Paradise” outline

Castle Knights football

Chapter 7: Perfection

MANY OF THE UNDERCLASSMEN starters on the ’81 Castle team were far from happy about the way the previous season had ended. They felt they had been denied an identity on that squad, which played the game more with emotion and pure unchecked passion than with the business-like atmosphere that the underclassmen embodied.

It wasn’t the lopsided loss to Carmel itself that burned them. It was the end of the game, those last five minutes when all was lost, that had left them lying awake many a night since.

As the game got out of hand, some of the seniors had let their passion get the best of them — tears were shed, voices cracked with emotion in the huddle, and desperation, and perhaps even surrender, had crept into their eyes.

The underclassmen, meanwhile, were angry. Angry at losing, angry at being humiliated.

The game clock couldn’t tick down to zero fast enough.

STANDING ON THE FIELD after the game, sophomore Chris Brosmer promised his former Chandler Viking coach, Damon Monks, that this result wouldn’t happen again. Monks put his arm around him in consolation. Deep down Monks knew that the younger Brosmer and his teammates would keep that promise.

The ’82 team would throw itself into the weight room just a few days after the Carmel defeat.

They were focused on turning that humiliation into motivation. They would spend nearly every minute of the coming summer together. Before organized practices were allowed to begin, they practiced on their own for hours.They would not let the humiliation of the Carmel game happen again.

Storming through the 1982 regular season undefeated, outscoring opponents 333-40 along the way, the Knights shuffled into the playoffs with a vim and vigor that belied their status as a southern Indiana team without a chance to win the title.Chris Brosmer, Mike Davis, Dave Brosmer and Matt McDowell

They dominated an undefeated Richmond Red Devils team 23-7 in the opening playoff game setting the stage for a rematch with the undefeated Martinsville Artesians, a playoff game they had thoroughly dominated the year before.

But this time, the game would be on the Artesians home field. This time it would be different in ways the Knights couldn’t possibly imagine.

Next — Chapter 8: One More Score

Feb 03

“The Road to Paradise” outline

Chapter 6: The Bigger the Bully

FOOTBALL IS LIKE BOXING. When you put your opponent on his heels with a stinging uppercut, you keep him on his heels with a right cross.

The opening Reverse 47 Pass play had definitely put Hobart on its heels, but would be pointless unless the Knights could find a way to punch the ball into the end zone against the mammoth Hobart defensive line.

Perhaps the naive Knights are simply unaware that they aren’t supposed to be able to move the ball against the brick wall of the Brickies defensive line. Or perhaps they just don’t t know that despite conventional wisdom, size doesn’t always matter. Sometimes strength and quickness and desire and heart are just as important — and can be just as dominating.Castle Quarterback Mike Davis hands off to running back Dave Brosmer against the Hobart Brickies

A few plays later, the Knights have driven the ball to the Hobart one-yard line. As the Brickie players grouse amongst themselves, complaining that they can’t see the ball in the Knights’ misdirection offense, quarterback Mike Davis enters the huddle and looks at his friends and teammates.

He sees 10 sets of confident, zoned-in eyes staring back at him.

They know they are going to score. They know they are about to take the lead against a team they’ve been told they can’t score on, in a game they’ve been told they can’t win. They know they are about to make history — one touchdown at a time.

And score they do, taking a 7-0 lead against the Hobart Brickies.

FOOTBALL, HOWEVER, IS also a game of ebbs and tides, a game of momentum. It’s one thing to score a quick touchdown on a huge opponent. It’s another to keep that huge opponent from scoring a touchdown themselves. And this Hobart team is no pushover.

The Hobart players had grown up in the blue collar steel mill neighborhoods of Chicago’s far southeast suburbs. They expect to be swatting these country bumpkin Castle kids like flies.

The teams trade short possessions before the Hobart quarterback finds his favorite receiver for a 52-yard touchdown on a blown coverage by the Knights. Just like that, without having secured a first down, the Brickies have tied the game. The Knights are in a dogfight with a bigger and badder dog.

 Next — Chapter 7: Perfection

Feb 02

“The Road to Paradise” outline

Chapter 5: Learning to Win

THE KNIGHTS’ MARCH to the 1982 Indiana state championship game was born eight years before when a new junior football league was established in Chandler and Newburgh for kids from fourth through sixth grade.

Dave Brosmer and Pat Lockyear were among the fourth graders who strapped on football pads for the first time that fall. As members of the newly formed Chandler Vikings, the two friends would learn how to win … and win … and win. Joined by Chris Brosmer the following season, the Vikings would win two straight junior league championships becoming the class of the league. They would continue to enjoy that success through their sixth-grade season when they would go undefeated once again and face a Newburgh Raiders team led by a first-year quarterback named Mike Davis, a wily running back named Neal Chapman and a battering ram of a fifth grader named Joe Huff.

The Raiders weren’t impressed with the Vikings 18-1 record over the previous three seasons as they beat them 22-6 that night. But more important than the outcome of that game was the fact that the core of the Knights 1982 championship team had just met each other for the first time.

Dave Brosmer, Lockyear, Davis and Chapman would meet again the following season as seventh graders, comprising a team that would lose its first game on a 90-yard fumble return before going on a six-year tear as a class in which they would never lose again.

Next — Chapter 6: The Bigger the Bully

Feb 01

“The Road to Paradise” outline

Chapter 4: Return to Waterloo

The 1982 state championship game would bring the Castle Knights back to Indianapolis North Central High School Stadium, the very scene of their crushing defeat at the hands of the Carmel Greyhounds the year before.

While the Knights had exorcised the Carmel curse with a decisive 21-8 victory, returning to the iconic stadium floods them with memories of what can happen at this level. The glare of the stadium lights is even brighter than the Knights remember and the size and threatening natures of the Hobart Brickies players is even more ominous than what they expected.

When Castle’s junior running back Chris Brosmer bobbles the opening kickoff, leaving the ball fluttering on the wet turf for a split second, all of Castledom holds its collective breath. It’s in moments like this that championships can be lost. But Brosmer picks up the ball and lunges forward. Disaster averted.

Chris’ 10-month-older brother and fellow running back, Dave, approaches his sibling and slaps him on the butt. He won’t offer the competitive criticism that often flows between them. Off the field, the two often come close to killing each other. On the field, they are the most loyal of allies.

“Don’t worry about it,” Dave says. “Now, let’s take it and stuff it down their throat.”

The two share a smile as they enter the huddle. Despite the pressure of the moment, they can afford to smile. They know what play is coming next — the team’s bread-and-butter, Reverse 47 Pass. Opponent after opponent has tried to defend against the deceptive play all season. Even when opponents know the play is coming, they seem powerless to stop it. The Brickies are about to discover that as well.

Quarterback Mike Davis takes the snap, fakes two handoffs into the line and heaves the ball downfield. Fifty-two yards later, Dave Brosmer picks himself up off the hard ground with a huge first down as the Castle sideline goes nuts. Hobart players, meanwhile, begin bickering amongst themselves. This isn’t supposed to be happening.

Next — Chapter 5: Learning to Win

Jan 31

“The Road to Paradise” outline

Chapter 3: Paradise, Indiana

The Castle coaches and players would have liked to have had the respect of their opponents and those “experts” who predicted another embarrassing trouncing, this time at the hands of the beefy Hobart Brickies.

If the Knights couldn’t have that respect given to them, they’d just have to do the next best thing. They’d have to take it. Other than beating the Carmel Greyhounds, however, Castle High School had done little yet on the football field to demand such respect from the state’s elite football programs.

The fact is, in the early years after its inception in 1959, the school was as much at war with itself than with any other schools. Castle High School was — for all intents and purposes — a shotgun marriage of two polar opposite towns.

The historic river town of Newburgh, Indiana, rises above the meandering Ohio River, across from which some of Kentucky’s richest farmland spreads for miles. Civil War mansions and antebellum houses sit atop rolling hills and bluffs watching coal-laden barges and time itself roll by on the mighty Ohio. The lazy river town’s biggest claim to fame to date was being briefly captured by Confederate rebels during the Civil War — without a shot being fired.Newburgh, Indiana

Blue collar Chandler, Indiana, on the other hand, would have loved to have had such an historical moment — no matter how dubious. The town of modest clapboard houses and mobile homes was a mere spot on the highway that stretched from the Vanderburgh County seat and regional economic hub of Evansville to the west and the Warrick County seat Boonville to the east. Rough-and-tumble Chandler quite literally sat on the wrong side of the proverbial tracks, and Newburgh residents weren’t about to let them forget it.

When growth in southwestern Warrick County necessitated combining the two towns’ tiny high schools into a single school situated directly between them in an unincorporated area called Paradise, the once bitter rivals would be forced to find a way to get along.

It would be a trying honeymoon until the students of the new Castle High School could find a common enemy — county bully Boonville High School.  It would be a bitter rivalry that would remain heated beyond any other for the next quarter century.

Next — Chapter 4: Return to Waterloo

Jan 30

“The Road to Paradise” outline

Chapter 2: What Have We Done?

A year, a week and a day after the Carmel disaster, the 1982 Castle Knights football squad has answered the immediate question of whether they can ever get past the Greyhounds. Even though the Knights have gotten their revenge by dominating Carmel the week before, they find themselves to be the Rodney Dangerfields of Indiana high school football; they simply can get no respect.

Maybe it’s because they would be playing the Hobart Brickies, yet another Indiana football powerhouse known for its bruising, punishing brand of football, for all the marbles — the Indiana state AAA football championship.School City of Hobart

The Knights aren’t the first team from the far southern tip of Indiana to vie for the football title in state’s highest classification. A few had been there before, particularly the Reitz Panthers, who had a half dozen “mythical” championship trophies on display in their school on Evansville’s west side.

No team from southwest Indiana, however, had even come close to taking the title since the state instituted a playoff system in 1973 that allowed the matter to be decided on the field rather than in the polls. Reitz had the best chance in 1977, marching to the title game in Indianapolis where they were taken apart — as the “experts” predicted — by a bigger, stronger Portage Indians team from northern Indiana.

If the Knights didn’t know known such history lessons firsthand, they are reminded by a constant barrage of media reports extolling that they have absolutely no chance against Hobart. Not this team. Not with this opponent.

The Knights are expected to take their beating and go home, proud of having had the opportunity to visit the state capital city to lose an important game.

Would the Knights listen? Would they take their beating and simply go home? Was beating Carmel destined to be Castle’s “championship” game?

No one is sure, not even the Castle coaching staff.

As the half dozen coaches hunker down to watch Hobart’s game tapes the day after the Carmel victory, an uneasy silence befalls the room.

After a half hour of watching the colossal Hobart players destroying their equally gigantic opponents, a lone voice in the back of the room finally breaks the silence and asks what’s on everyone’s mind:

“My god, what have we done?”

Next — Chapter 3: Life in Paradise