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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 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 John 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 wins.
With the hiring of former Castle player Doug Hurt as head coach, the Knights have begun 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.
Knight Time in Paradise has returned.
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 three steps back into his own end zone scanning the field for a receiver. As the Panther linemen surrounded him, Gilles threw a bullet to junior Jon-Marc Anderson, who would pull the ball in at the 10-yard line and weave and dodge 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. 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 that 11-1 team.