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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!
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.