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30 Years Strong

The Road to Paradise looks back three decades to the story of an unlikely football champion — an unproven team without football pedigree
Buy it at ThomWilder.com, Amazon.com, or Evansville’s Barnes & Noble, where Thom Wilder will sign books on Sept. 29 at 2 p.m.Buy it at ThomWilder.com, Amazon.com, or Evansville’s Barnes & Noble, where Thom Wilder will sign books on Sept. 29 at 2 p.m.
Buy it at ThomWilder.com, Amazon.com, or Evansville’s Barnes & Noble, where Thom Wilder will sign books on Sept. 29 at 2 p.m.

Considered by many “experts” to be a team that could never seriously contend with the powerhouse schools from northern Indiana, the 1982 Castle High School Knights capped off an undefeated season with a championship that had been born six years before when a group of teenage strangers took the practice field for the first time as a team.

The Knights hadn’t set the world on fire since first fielding a football squad in the fall of 1960, and were more often than not the preferred homecoming patsy of most of the teams they faced. When Castle High School was elevated to the state’s largest football classification, AAA, 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.

CHAPTER 2: What Have We Done
Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” rocked the locker room all week in mid-November as the Knights prepared for the game of their lives: the 1982 Indiana State AAA Football Championship. They had beaten three quality teams in the playoffs to get to that point. As long as they were there, they figured they might as well try to win it all. They were naive enough to believe they could.

The Road to Paradise is more than the story of what happened on a rainy night in November of 1982 when the unproven Knights stepped into the glare of a state championship matchup with the football powerhouse Hobart High School. In these excerpts from the just published book, author Thom Wilder tells the story of all that happened before, and all that would happen after, for a team, a school, and a community at the crossroads.

CHAPTER 4: Return to Waterloo
The players kept their eyes fixed on the enormous North Central High School stadium as the team bus pulled into the parking lot on the north side of Indianapolis. Napoleon had returned to Waterloo. The air of intimidation didn’t fill the bus this year as much as it had the previous season. This time it was an anticipation borne in the desire to erase the ghosts of the past. This time, it was for all the marbles.

“We felt that this was where we were supposed to be,” said Mike Davis, who had been a starting defensive back the prior season, but was now the Knights’ starting quarterback. “This is what we had talked about as eighth graders and freshmen. This is what all that hard work had been for.”

Still, the memories of Carmel’s 49-13 thrashing of the Knights were never far from their minds as a tightness circulated through the pre-game locker room. So far, the Knights had played the same 13 teams as the previous season — until now. Now, they had gone one game further.

Hobart was uncharted waters. Many of the Knights had never even heard of the northwest Indiana city. Castle was as close to Kentucky as Hobart was to Chicago. The two towns were in completely different worlds.

There would be no rah-rah, win-one-for-the-Gipper speeches when Head Coach John Lidy gathered his troops for the last-minute pre-game talk. As always, he got to the point. He shared no poignant words about what winning would mean. They already knew. He simply reminded them what they had done to get to the threshold of winning a state championship, as well as how none of the experts had thought the Knights could get here — and none believed they could win it now that they had.

“Well, we’re here,” Lidy said. “We might as well win the dang thing. Just do your jobs. Let it all happen on the field. Don’t hold anything back.”

He could see in their eyes they’d come to play football. Words were no longer necessary. They were ready. All systems were go.

“We didn’t need a big speech,” junior receiver Deon Chester said. “We had heard so much about another team from the north that says we can’t play with them. We’d heard enough. We didn’t need any more talking. We needed to go to work.”

With that, Lidy turned them loose, and the team bolted for the locker room door.

“We couldn’t get that game started fast enough,” linebacker Rodney Russell said.

In the pre-game warm-ups, junior flanker Gary Gilles marveled at how big the Hobart players were.

“They looked like a college team,” he said.

Assistant Coach Marc Anderson kept a careful eye on his players and a wary eye on the Hobart player making a spectacle of himself at the 50-yard line. De Lipke, the less celebrated of Hobart’s linebacking crew, had spent the pre-game standing at midfield screaming at the Castle sideline. Anderson stood 10 yards away, concerned that Lipke might make his way toward the Castle players going through their stretches.

“I guess he was trying to intimidate us,” Anderson said. “They seemed more focused on acting like tough guys than playing the game.”

Across the field, a burly Hobart fan watched intently as offensive line coach Johnny Evers ran his linemen through their drills.

“Hey, where are your big boys?” the fan yelled.

“This is it,” Evers replied with a grin.

Hobart had won the pre-game coin toss, but elected to kick rather than receive to begin the game — a wise strategy if you have a top-notch defense like that of the Brickies. Castle had the option of which end zone it wanted to defend and the Knights chose to go into the wind in the first quarter and have the wind at their backs for the second quarter.

As Hobart’s Mike Budzelik kicked off, the Brosmer brothers, David and fellow running back Chris, and senior end Kenny Brown waited at the other end of the field in their white jerseys, yellow pants and white helmets adorned with a blue “C” and two blue stripes flanking a gold stripe running down the middle.

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30 Years Strong

They seemed more focused on acting like tough guys than playing the game..... Regards, Bizworldusa

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