Available September 1
Dog Ear Publishing
Just as the film Hoosiers captured the poignant spirit of Indiana high school basketball, The Road to Paradise tells the story of an unlikely and unexpected football champion – an unproven team without a football pedigree.
Considered by many “experts” to be a team that could never seriously contend with the powerhouse schools from northern Indiana, the 1982 Castle Knights capped off a magical undefeated season with a championship that had been born six years before when a group of young, pubescent teenage strangers took the practice field for the first time as a team.
The Castle High School Knights hadn’t set the world on fire since first fielding a football squad in the fall of 1960. The Knights were more often than not the preferred homecoming patsy of most of the teams they faced.
And when Castle High was elevated to the state’s largest football classification, AAA, the Knights would face the state’s largest schools on the football field. Disaster loomed, and for a few years it took its toll on the school and community. The Knights hit rock bottom in the 1978-79 seasons when they would drop 19 straight games.
But at rock bottom, there is nowhere to go but up. The next season, the Knights would finish 6-3 and the season after would top that with an 8-2 record and drive deep into the state playoffs before being destroyed by the eventual state champion Carmel Greyhounds 49-13.
Had a fluke season just ended like it was supposed to – in annihilating defeat? Or was it that promising season a harbinger of things to come?
The answer came in a perfect 14-0 season in 1982 by the still unproven team that hailed from the disrespected and overlooked part of the basketball-mad state.
The Road to Paradise is the story of that season, that team, that community, and high school football in Indiana. But this story reaches beyond football. It is the story of a time and a place and the people who called it home.
The Road to Paradise is more than the story of what happened on a cold and rainy night in November of 1982 when the unproven Knights stepped into the glare of the big time and a state championship match up with the football powerhouse Hobart Brickies. It is the story of all that happened before, and all that would happen after for a team, a school and a community at a crossroads.
It is the story of two towns from the opposite sides of the proverbial economic tracks forced together in a shot-gun marriage, but with the common ground that both resided from the disrespected end of the state.
It is and is not a football story. It is a story about winning, but even more so, a story about refusing to lose. It is the story of a diverse group of young men that all come together to accomplish something impossible, something magical that no matter what life might throw at them — could never be taken away.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1: Friday the 13th
The one-sided 1981 loss to the eventual state champion Carmel Greyhounds leaves the Castle Knights football program at a crossroads: accept its place as a playoff patsy for northern Indiana teams or use the loss as motivation to take the next step.
Chapter 2: What Have We Done?
As the Castle Knights prepare to play the northern Indiana powerhouse Hobart Brickies for the 1982 state football championship, they have answered most of the naysayers who contend that southern teams just can’t compete with their northern brethren. As Castle coaches review Hobart game tapes, witnessing the size and ferociousness of the Brickies, only one question is on their mind: “My god, what have we done?
Chapter 3: Paradise
Castle High School, a shot-gun marriage between two polar opposite towns — the picturesque river town Newburgh and the blue collar collection of clapboard houses and mobile homes along a highway known as Chandler. Can the two towns coexist as one school?
Chapter 4: Return to Waterloo
The Knights return to the stadium of the disaster game against Carmel a year before, this time to play for state championship against Hobart. In the opening minutes of the contest, the Knights would bobble the kickoff and still go into the offensive huddle smiling. They could afford to smile, they knew what play was coming next.
Chapter 5: Learning to Win
The formative years of the 1982 Castle team are explored from fourth grade when they first strapped on shoulder pads through their junior seasons when many of them would play formative roles on the 1981 team that would reach the semi-state level of the playoffs. Through it all, these future Knights were learning to win.
The Castle Knights use timing, precision and finesse, along with a good ol’ dose of smash-mouth football to take an early lead on Hobart during the 1982 state championship game. Hobart quickly responds with a touchdown of its own. The Knights are in a dog fight with a bigger and badder dog.
Chapter 7: Perfection!
Still smarting from the blowout to Carmel a year before, the 1982 Castle football team rumbles through the regular season unchallenged and undefeated. After an easy opening playoff win against Richmond, the 11-0 Knights are forcing their way to center stage in Indiana High School football. If only the “experts” would give them their due.
Chapter 8: One More Score
With the score tied against Hobart during the 1982 state championship game, the Castle Knights are at a crossroads. Having gone further than any other Castle team and much further than the “experts” had allowed them go, they could lie down and take a 13-1 record as a major step forward, or they could reach for that brass ring. If you’re going to the championship game, you might as well try to win it, right?
After dispensing Richmond, the Knights must travel to play the Martinsville Artesians, a team they thoroughly beat the season before in a huge 35-7 upset. This time, however, the game would take place on the Artesians’ home turf, and the Knights, who would have to battle both Martinsville’s past and present, had no idea what they would be walking into.
Chapter 10: The Way the Ball Bounces
Castle takes an improbable 20-7 lead on Hobart in the 1982 state championship game thanks to its not-so-secret weapon, Flea Flicker 600, yet Hobart won’t lie down, scoring 16 unanswered points to seize control of the game as the fourth quarter starts. Do the Knights have enough left in their tank for one more score?
Chapter 11: Exorcising the Ghosts of Carmel
The tough emotional victory over Martinsville gives the Knights what they’ve sought for the past year — another shot at the defending state champion Carmel Greyhounds. This time, however, the game will be on the Knights’ home turf. This time, it will be different. This time the Greyhounds will be the hunted and the Knights will be the hunter.
Chapter 12: How Sweet It Is!
Suddenly, finding themselves down 23-20 in a game they led the entire way, the Knights take possession and plod their way down the field in the 1982 state championship game. Facing a tough third-and-six, junior receiver Deon Chester makes an amazing back-breaking catch for a 36-yard reception that takes the air out of the Brickie defense.
The Knights would score moments later to take a 26-23 lead and would ultimately stop Hobart’s last-ditch desperation drive. Taking over the ball with 26 seconds to go in the game, the Knights offense lined up for one last play, knowing that the Brickies could not stop the clock.
The team’s leader, quarterback Mike Davis, stuck his head in the huddle one last time, telling his teammates: “This is it. This is what we dreamed about. Let’s do it.”
Chapter 13: Greatness Never Leaves
The players and coaches would go their own ways. Some would go on to further greatness. Some would falter. Some would die. They learned, however, that championships are won more by actions off the field than on. The City of Martinsville, meanwhile, would continue on, desperate to shake the pall cast by its past. The Carol Jenkins murder that labeled the town would finally be solved and the city exonerated, but for every two steps forward, continued racial incidents send the city back a step.
Chapter 14: The Circle of Life
During a mid-season 2011 victory of arch-rival Evansville Reitz, a team the Knights hadn’t beaten in a decade, Castle quarterback Mitch Gilles connects on a 99-yard touchdown pass, erasing one of the last remaining varsity records of the 1982 state championship team. Gilles, the son of the Castle player who knocked down Hobart’s last-gasp pass in the state championship game 29 years before, had just brought the story of the Castle Knights full circle.
CHAPTER 1: FRIDAY THE 13TH
A funny thing happened on the way to the coliseum.
Actually, it wasn’t that funny that the bus carrying the 1981 Castle High School football team to their semi-final playoff match-up with the Carmel Greyhounds got lost on the way the stadium.
When the Castle Knights finally arrived, the 10,000-seat stadium was already packed and buzzing with anticipation. As the young team with no prior playoff experience before this season stepped off the bus, the lights never seemed brighter, the crowd never seemed bigger, the consequences of what was at stake never seemed more important. They felt the pressure of the moment and the hopes and dreams of all southwest Indiana squarely on their shoulders.
This was more than just another game for the Knights; it was uncharted waters. The entire state was paying attention to the match-up of this unknown team from the southern tip of Indiana against the defending state champion Carmel Greyhounds, who hailed from the epicenter of the Indiana football universe.
The “experts” of such things predicted Armageddon, disaster and pestilence. And they were right.
The powerhouse Greyhounds annihilated the upstart Knights 49-13 in a game that in reality wasn’t even that close. The lingering question after the debacle wasn’t about what happened that night, but how would the Castle Knights’ football program would respond?
Had the Knights reached the pinnacle of their success or would there be more to come?
CHAPTER 2: WHAT HAVE WE DONE?
A year, a week and a day after the 1981 Carmel disaster, the 1982 Castle Knights football squad had answered the immediate question of whether they could ever get past the Greyhounds. Even though the Knights had gotten their revenge by dominating Carmel the week before, they found themselves to be the Rodney Dangerfields of Indiana high school football — they simply could 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.
The Knights weren’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 Evansville Reitz Panthers, who had a half dozen “mythical” championship trophies on display in their school on Evansville’s west side — mythical because the championships had been awarded through post-season polls and not earned on the field. It was a distinction that northern Indiana schools pointed to every chance they got — and history, so far, was proving them correct.
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 were reminded by a constant barrage of media reports extolling that they had absolutely no chance against Hobart. Not this team. Not with this opponent.
The Knights were 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 was sure, not even the Castle coaching staff.
As the half dozen coaches hunkered down to watch Hobart’s game tapes the day after the Carmel victory, an uneasy silence befell 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 broke the silence — and the air of tension — by asking what was on everyone’s mind:
“My god, what have we done?”
CHAPTER 3: PARADISE
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 was, 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.
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.
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 flooded them with memories of what could happen at this level. The glare of the stadium lights was even brighter than the Knights remembered and the size and threatening natures of the Hobart Brickies players was even more ominous than what they expected.
When Castle’s junior running back Chris Brosmer bobbled the opening kickoff, leaving the ball fluttering on the wet turf for a split second, all of Castledom held its collective breath. Moments like this are when championships can be lost. But Brosmer picked up the ball and lunged forward. Disaster averted.
Chris’ 10-month-older brother and fellow running back, David, approached his sibling and slapped him on the butt. He wouldn’t offer the competitive criticism that often flowed between them. Off the field, the two often came close to killing each other. On the field, however, they are the most loyal of allies.
The two shared a smile as they entered the huddle. Despite the pressure of the moment, they could afford to smile. They knew what play was coming next — the team’s bread-and-butter Reverse 47 Pass. Opponent after opponent had tried to defend against the deceptive play all season. Even when opponents knew the play is coming, they seemed powerless to stop it. The Brickies were about to discover that as well.
Quarterback Mike Davis took the snap, faked two handoffs into the line and heaved the ball down the field. Fifty-two yards later, Dave Brosmer picked himself up off the hard ground with a huge first down as the Castle sideline went nuts. Hobart players, meanwhile, began bickering amongst themselves. This wasn’t supposed to be happening.
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.
David 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 Neil Chapman and a battering ram of a fifth-grade linebacker 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 rampage as a class in which they would never lose again.
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 were simply unaware that they weren’t supposed to be able to move the ball against the brick wall of the Brickies defensive line. Or perhaps they just didn’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.
A few plays later, the Knights had driven the ball to the Hobart one-yard line. As the Brickie players groused amongst themselves, complaining that they can’t see the ball in the Knights’ misdirection offense, quarterback Mike Davis entered the huddle and looked at his friends and teammates.
He saw 10 sets of confident, zoned-in eyes staring back at him.
They knew they are going to score. They knew they are about to take the lead against a team they’d been told they couldn’t score on, in a game they’d been told they couldn’t win. They knew they were about to make history — one touchdown at a time.
And score they did, 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 was no pushover.
The Hobart players had grown up in the blue collar steel mill neighborhoods of Chicago’s far southeast suburbs. They expected 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 had tied the game. The Knights were in a dogfight with a bigger and badder dog.
CHAPTER 7: PERFECTION
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.
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.
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 was tied. It was 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 found themselves with a fourth-and-four at the Brickies’ 23-yard line. Facing a 40-yard field goal into the wind, Castle eschewed the kick and kept its offense on the field and called 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.
Davis took the snap and offered two fake handoffs into the line before his pass found David Brosmer at the five-yard line. As the senior running back waltzed into the end zone untouched for the touchdown, the Knights had answered the bell, the critics and themselves. They had responded. Second place won’t be good enough.
With seven-and-a-half minutes left in the first half, the Knights owned a 14-7 lead in a game the entire Indiana football universe expected them to lose and lose big. The Knights had seized the momentum right back. Could they keep it?
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 and communities.
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 named Carol Jenkins fourteen years before.
CHAPTER 10: THE WAY THE BALL BOUNCES
HALFWAY THROUGH THE second quarter, the Castle Knights were holding the powerful Hobart Brickies without a first down in a game they led 14-7.
With the ball at midfield, quarterback Mike Davis was surprised by the play being sent into the huddle — 600 Flea Flicker. Hobart no doubt knew it was coming and might have been expecting it at the end of the game, but not here with Castle leading. Davis took the snap and launched a perfect missile to junior receiver Deon Chester, who flicked the ball effortlessly to senior running back David Brosmer streaking by. A few seconds later, Brosmer crossed the goal line for a 50-yard touchdown and a 20-7 lead.
The Brickies squeaked out a wobbly 40-yard field goal right before halftime to cut the lead to 20-10. It was an ugly score, but it represented more than three points — the Brickies had taken momentum into the locker room.
The Knights, who had dominated nearly every facet of the game so far, failed to show up for the third quarter. Whether it was because they hadn’t caught their second wind, or because the play calling had become too conservative, or because special teams miscues were too much to overcome — whatever the reason — the Brickies scored 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 had thoroughly dominated, the Knights had nine-and-a-half minutes to make history. Nine-and-a-half minutes separated them from a lifetime of prideful accomplishment or a lifetime of regret.
How would they respond?
CHAPTER 11: EXORCISING THE GHOSTS OF CARMEL
BEATING MARTINSVILLE had taken a lot out of the Knights and many wondered if they would suffer a letdown after such a tough, emotional game. While that might have been a possibility against some teams, the Castle coaching staff knew there would be no letdown with the Carmel Greyhounds coming to town.
Carmel had throttled Castle 49-13 the year before in Indianapolis. This year, the Greyhounds would travel to Paradise for a game that would decide who would play for the state championship. It wasn’t just the setting that was different. The feel of the game was different this time as well. This was a different Castle team — one that wasn’t about to be intimidated. Not this team, not this time, not on their home turf.
While Castle Coach John Lidy acknowledged that he had modeled his football program after the successful Carmel program, the Greyhound coach wasn’t too impressed. As the two coaches chatted during pregame warm ups, the Carmel coach told Lidy that he had “a nice little team.” Lidy knew what the coach meant. It was a slap in the face, his way of saying, “take your beating and go home.”
IF THE KNIGHTS wanted Carmel’s respect, they would have to take it. They would use Carmel’s dismissal of them as inspiration. And inspired they were.
The game would be a defensive slugfest in which the Knights would find themselves in charge of a shutout until the vaunted Greyhounds finally found the end zone with 73 seconds left. With their 21-8 victory over the defending state champs, the Knights had exorcized the demon that had haunted them for a year. And they would be playing for the state championship.
These Knights had now gone further than any Castle team before them. They had nothing left to prove to themselves or to southern Indiana. But if you’re going to the state championship, you might as well try to win it, right?
CHAPTER 12: HOW SWEET IT IS!
THE KNIGHTS’ OFFENSE lined up with nine-and-half minutes left in the 1982 state championship game. All those years of sweat and toil would come down to those next 570 seconds.
It was third-and-six and the Knights were in desperate need of a first down as quarterback Mike Davis took the snap. He dropped back and saw junior Deon Chester in the right flat, throwing purposely high, not wanting anybody but his receiver to be able to get to the ball.
But the pass was a little too high and Chester had to jump, barely getting a hand on it and flipping it even higher. The ball hung in the air for only a second, but it was one of those seconds that seemed to last forever. As the ball started its downward trajectory, Chester was out of position and had to twist himself like a pretzel, arching so far back that it seemed he might break in half.
And the ball fell into his hands.
Chester untangled himself and raced up the sideline to Hobart’s 25-yard line for a 36-yard gain. If there was any lingering doubt that this championship would belong to the Castle Knights, they evaporated with Chester’s miraculous catch.
A half dozen plays later, Chris Brosmer stumbled into the end zone for a touchdown giving the Knights a 26-23 lead with three minutes left.
Forced to go to the air, the Brickies were out of their element and when their fourth-down pass was knocked down by junior defensive back Gary Gilles with 26 seconds left, the Castle Knights were one snap away from the impossible.
Davis stuck his head in the offensive huddle, knowing Hobart couldn’t stop the clock.
“This is it,” Davis told his excited teammates. “This is what we dreamed about. Let’s do it.”
CHAPTER 13: GREATNESS NEVER LEAVES
THE PLAYERS AND COACHES of the 1982 Indiana state AAA football champion Castle Knights would go their own ways. Years would pass. Five years, then ten, then 20, then 30. Many would go onto even more greatness on fields far removed from the gridiron. Some would stumble. Some would seek to escape the glare of their moment of glory. Some would die before they could finish their journey.
To a man, the players and coaches of that team don’t speak of their championship season in a blustery, “we kicked their butts” manner. Instead, they speak of it with a reserved respect, understanding what they accomplished and the good players and teams they had to beat to get there.
Some have put their championship rings away, some still wear them daily, some have even put directions in their wills to be buried with them.
Life has taught them that nothing lasts forever. It has given them what they wanted and taken from them things they once valued important. It has made them realize that we don’t usually comprehend the most significant moments of our lives as they are occurring. It takes time and the wisdom and reflection of age to fully understand that moments of greatness, while seemingly fleeting, never leave us.
Through it all, however, they learned something a coach once told them in a sweaty and jubilant locker room — that a state championship could never be taken away no matter what life might throw at them.
And most importantly, perhaps, they learned that in life, as in football, when push comes to shove the answer to success lies in being in the proper state of mind.
CHAPTER 14: THE CIRCLE OF LIFE
During the 2011 football season, the Castle Knights would once again field one of top teams in southern Indiana, finishing the regular season undefeated for the first time since Coach Lidy stepped down following the 2002 campaign.
Since Lidy’s retirement, the team posted records of 3-7, 9-4 and 4-6 under former Louisville Trinity Coach Andy Coverdale, who installed a pass-happy offense that broke many of the school’s passing records but didn’t necessarily translate into consistent wins.
With the hiring of former Castle player Doug Hurt as head coach, the Knights began a steady climb back toward the top of the mountain of southern Indiana high school football. Under Hurt, the Knights have posted records of 8-3, 10-3, 8-4, 6-7, and 11-1 in the past five years.
The Knights won sectional championships 2008 and 2010 and were sectional runners up in 2009 and 2011. Aside from taking the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference championship in 2011, the Knights finished the regular season ranked 5th in class 5A, the program’s highest ranking since 2002.
During a Sept. 23 game at Castle Stadium with Evansville Reitz, an animated overflow crowd watched the Knights beat the Panthers for the first time in a decade, 22-13. They also watched history being made.
Stopping the Panthers with a goal line stand early in the game, the Castle offense lined up at their own one-yard line.Taking the snap, junior quarterback Mitch Gilles dropped back into his own end zone scanning the field for a receiver. As the Panther defensive linemen surrounded him, Gilles fired a bullet to junior receiver Jon-Marc Anderson, who pulled the ball in at the 10-yard line and weaved and dodged his way to a 99-yard touchdown.
The play would erase the 29-year-old school record for longest touchdown pass set in 1982 when senior quarterback Mike Davis connected with junior tight end Joe Huff for an 88-yard touchdown against Evansville Memorial. It would also tie the state record for longest touchdown pass.
Mitch Gilles — the son of Gary Gilles, the junior defensive back who slapped down Hobart’s final pass in the 1982 championship season — had just erased one of the last remaining records of his father’s championship team. It just goes to show that if you wait long enough, life does indeed come full circle.
The 2012 campaign promises to be an interesting one for the Castle Knights football program. Aside from being the 30th anniversary of the Knights’ 1982 championship season, the current team seems poised to make some noise of its own as it returns Gilles and most of the skill position players from the 2011 team.