Last Friday’s finale at what’s being called the “old” Trojan Bowl was something special, to say the least.
Probably one of the largest crowds of the past few years – certainly, the largest since I’ve been here – came to witness their hometown heroes, the Atlantic Trojans pretty much have their way with Shenandoah.
First, make no mistake. Shenandoah is an improved team. Despite being winless last year, I didn’t think the 2018 Mustang team was that bad; they just caught a few bad breaks and they’d often snowball in games.
But this night belonged to Atlantic, and what a game for Tyler Moen. Once he had the two long touchdown runs, of 76 and 91 yards on offense, and two long interception returns, it was clear this night he would belong to the ages in Trojan lore.
He might just have made a case for himself as no worse than second team all-state. (But that’s a later conversation.)
And a large delegation of some of the Trojan greats of the past were there. Tim Wrice, a defensive standout for the 1980 team that played in the school’s second-ever state championship game (the 1974 team also did) was there; he went on to a big career with the Seattle Seahawks.
Arguably the most successful Atlantic coach in school history was also there, Bob Younger, who went 171-45 in 23 years. His teams never won fewer than six games a year, and several of those teams went deep into the playoffs.
Through thick and thin, fans still come out on Friday nights to watch Atlantic. I’m guessing there’s just some magic in the air with a team that, even when their records aren’t the best, has that air of tradition.
It’s been that way for more than 85 years. It was in 1932 that the Trojan Bowl came to be. Before that, games were played at Sunnyside Park. It was said that Sunnyside was the only lighted field in southwest Iowa at the time. When the move came in 1932, so did the lights, and it was something special to watch football under the lights.
Former News-Telegraph sports reporter Phil Chinitz gave the venue the name “Trojan Bowl” in the 1950s, and it’s been a special place ever since.
For those who are wondering: Yes, the Trojan Bowl will remain where it is now. Just a bunch of new updates, including artificial turf, a new scoreboard, concession stand and much more. This I know will make Atlantic the premier venue in southwest Iowa when all is said and done.
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“Never mind the rules, just play to win.”
So goes the line in an old country song from 50 years ago, “Skip a Rope” by Henson Cargill.
Apparently, this team from the St. Louis area, Cardinal Ritter, thought they could do just that – “never mind the rules, just play to win” – and sneak one past everyone when they broke the rules by using an ineligible player in a game earlier this season.
The deception was caught by a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch when he noticed a “newcomer” player had the same tattoos as the player that was supposed to be serving a one-game suspension for that game. (The player had been kicked out of the Missouri Class 3 state title game a year ago.)
The situation was brought to the attention of the Cardinal Ritter administration, who immediately fired all the coaches and suspended the football season.
We were talking in the newsroom about what would motivate a team’s coaches to do this and what they would be thinking.
Really, seriously ... what were they thinking?
Apparently, when you’re nationally ranked – as Cardinal Ritter was – and you’re playing a nationally-ranked opponent (Naareth Academy), the coaches that thought this was a good idea must think winning is more important rather than allowing others on the team to try to step up in the ineligible player’s absence.
And the players are no better for going along with this and, in fact, encouraging a cover-up. Even if there was – as I suspect – a culture that told them to keep quiet about it ... or else. Anyone who is up for scholarships and college offers should have them revoked and they should never play again.
Let alone the coaches never be allowed to coach again.
At least someone at Cardinal Ritter had ethics and morals and stood up for what was right.
And I’m guessing when the football program resumes again in the future the school’s administration and new coaching staff will take steps to make sure this never happens again.