CARMEL WAS ABOUT to add injury to insult.
After yet another touchdown giving them an insurmountable 49-13 lead, the Greyhounds kicked off to the demoralized Knights. On the play, junior Dave Brosmer and got creamed from the side, causing him to wrench his back as he hit the ground.
He felt the twinge of pain, but didn’t have time to worry about it now. There were two minutes left to play.
When he awoke the next morning, he expected to be sore and he was. When he tried to throw his legs to the floor, a pain more intense than anything he’d ever experienced shot through him. His brother Chris helped him to the family car and his mother drove him to the hospital. After an endless array of tests, x-rays and MRIs, the doctor entered the room and turned his world upside down.
“You’ve pretty much cracked your vertebrae in half. You’re going to need surgery.”
“Surgery?” an agitated Brosmer shot back as his mom tried to comfort him. “What’s that mean?”
The doctor offered some bland encouragement, but Brosmer wasn’t in the mood. He had only one question on his mind right then. He had to ask, even if he didn’t want to hear the answer.
“Am I going to be able to play football again?”
He needed to hear a yes or no. He got neither.
“Let’s see, Dave, okay?”
OUTSIDE THE HOSPITAL ROOM, his parents asked the question again: Would he play football again? They got a much more straight-forward answer.
“Probably not,” the doctor told them.
There’s no lonelier place than within your own thoughts, and Brosmer would have plenty of time alone with his thoughts. He was scared of the prospect of not playing football again. Scared that the injury might be worse than what he was being told. It was a lot for a 17 year old to deal with.
After the surgery, he awoke in a morphine-induced haze. His eyes searched the room and soon found his parents. The concern in their eyes couldn’t lie to him. They were worried. They offered comforting smiles, exchanged small talk and laughed a little until Brosmer realized he couldn’t feel his legs.
Panic spread through him.
This was the ugly place his thoughts had taken him, and now it seemed to be coming true.
The doctors would repeatedly tell him that the paralysis was temporary. Be patient and the feeling would come back.
Be patient? He wanted to scream.
“When you’re 17, all you can think is that this isn’t right,” he said.
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, Indiana
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, a town literally on the wrong side of the tracks. 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.
Chapter 6: The Bigger the Bully
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?
Chapter 9: Martinsville, Myth and Mystery
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 naive Knights, who would have 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 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 downfield 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. Scoring moments later to take the lead, quarterback Mike Davis would stick his head in the huddle for the last time and tell 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 Jenkins murder would finally be solved and the city exonerated, but for every two steps forward Martinsville seems to take to erase its past, continued racial incidents send it back a step.
Chapter 14: The Circle of Life
During a mid-season 2011 victory of archrival Evansville Reitz, a team the Knights hadn’t beaten in a decade, Castle quarterback Mitch Gilles connected 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 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, Coach Lidy knew there would be no letdown when the Carmel Greyhounds came to town.
Carmel had throttled Castle 49-13 the year before. 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. 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 Lidy acknowledged that he had modeled his football program after the successful Carmel program, the Greyhound coach wasn’t too impressed. As he and Lidy 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?
Next — Chapter 12: How Sweet It Is!