Buckle up those chin straps!
The Road to Paradise is coming just in time for football season.
I want to say “thank you.”
I’m pleased to announce that 15 months after I first began researching The Road to Paradise, the book (all 85,000 words of it) has left my desk and gone to the publisher. An August release date is expected.
This project would have been impossible to undertake without the help of many people. Thanks to Pat Lockyear and Johnny Evers, who were instrumental in helping me get the project off the ground. Special thanks to Kathy DiDomizio and her editing talents. A tip of the hat to Kevin Swank and Tony Freels whose incredible photographs (many of which you’ve seen right here) will grace the pages of The Road to Paradise.
I started this book because it was a great story that needed to be told. I finished it because it became a labor of love. It was my desire to tell a detailed account of all that occurred that season as well as significant events before and after. The graciously provided reflections of the players, coaches and administrators were vital in this endeavor. Thank you for sharing your amazing stories.
I had three immediate goals in undertaking this daunting project:
First, I wanted to record this amazing story for posterity’s sake. As the years have gone by, the edges of the story had started to get fuzzy for many of us. The Road to Paradise strives to put it all in sharp detail.
Second, I wanted to tell not just the story of this football season, but also the individual stories of those who made it up that team and the community that supported it.
Finally, I wanted to explore the perfect storm of events necessary for championships to occur. I sought to discover just how championships like this are made. If there was ever a recipe for such a thing, it’s right here. We could all learn a thing or two from the 1982 Castle Knights.
I believe The Road to Paradise accomplishes all these goals. I hope you will agree.
Coach Evers reminded me once of a quote from the movie “Field of Dreams” that I believe sums up the essence of that time in our lives when the character Moonlight Graham says:
“You know, we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening. Back then I thought, well, there’ll be other days. I didn’t realize that that was the only day.”
Oh, but it was one helluva day! And it came with a lifetime of memories for all of us. I’m honored to have recorded them.
Please keep checking back for more details. I’ll be posting additional pictures and updates over the coming months. Please feel free to share additional info and photos if you have them. I’d love to share them on the Web site.
Oh, and me? I’m hitting the golf course. Fore!
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 12: How Sweet It Is!
THE KNIGHTS’ OFFENSE lines up with nine-and-half minutes separating them from a lifetime of pride or a lifetime of regrets. All those years of sweat and toil will come down to these next 570 seconds.
It’s third and six and the Knights are in desperate need of a first down as quarterback Mike Davis takes the snap. He drops back and sees 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 is a little too high and Chester has to jump, barely getting a hand on it and flipping it even higher. The ball hangs in the air for only a split second, but it’s one of those split seconds that seems to last forever. As the ball starts its downward trajectory, Chester is now out of position and has to twist himself like a pretzel, arching so far back that it seems he might break in half.
And the ball falls into his hands.
Chester untangles himself and races up the sideline to Hobart’s 25-yard line for a 36-yard gain. If there is any lingering doubt that this championship will belong to the Knights, they evaporate with Chester’s miraculous catch.
A half dozen plays later, Chris Brosmer stumbles into the end zone for a touchdown giving the Knights a 23-20 lead with three minutes left.
Forced to go to the air, the Brickies are out of their element and when their fourth-down pass is knocked down by junior defensive back Gary Gilles with 26 seconds left, the Castle Knights are one snap away from the impossible.
Davis sticks his head in the offensive huddle, knowing Hobart can’t stop the clock.
“This is it,” Davis says to his excited teammates. “This is what we dreamed about. Let’s do it.”
Next Chapter 13: Greatness Never Leaves
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 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
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.
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