Hallsville wins first varsity home game

Saturday, September 6, 2008 | 4:40 p.m. CDT; updated 3:10 a.m. CDT, Sunday, September 7, 2008
Down seven points at the half, the Hallsville football team listens to instructions from coach John Morris. The Indians went on to beat Mark Twain 19-8 on Friday in their first varsity home game.

HALLSVILLE - Creating Hallsville High School's varsity football program is a complex weaving of two story lines.

One is the work done by a community to build a varsity program in two years. The other is a retired coach on vacation, brought back to build one more program. Both meshed perfectly to result in Hallsville's first varsity win, a 19-8 victory over Mark Twain on Friday.


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Quarterback Blake Berkbuegler accounted for all three Indians touchdowns, throwing for two and returning an interception for another.

The community effort began four years ago. The school tried to pass a tax levy to fund the program, but the measure failed. A community group decided to raise the money themselves.

"We've raised approximately $350,000 in cash and services and materials," said Chad Sayre, a Hallsville Football Kickoff Committee member. "When we're done, we expect the retail value to be $1.3 or $1.4 million. We think we're going to have a state-of-the-art facility."

Sayre pauses for a moment, adds some emotion to his voice, and says, "I'm fired up about it."

Mid-Missouri businesses were integral to the process. Boone County National Bank donated $50,000, which was used to purchase the scoreboard, while the Missouri Farmers Association donated grass seed and fertilizer for the field.

The school financed construction of the bleachers and lights because of the impact the football program has on its students, but will be reimbursed with the proceeds of an ongoing brick sale.

The committee spent a year planning the construction of the field. The four members (Jeff Crane, Kate Grant, Keith Neese, and Sayre) spent a year traveling to other schools in the area and talking to other football committees and coaches.

Ideas culled from that research were used in the construction of the Hallsville field.

The home locker room is still under construction, as is a building expected to hold restrooms, the visitor's locker room, and the concessions stand. Hallsville athletic director George Rudisaile said he thinks the buildings will be finished by the start of next season.

Rudisaile said the role Hallsville coach John Morris played was vital to building the program.

"He was one of 75 that applied for this job," Rudisaile said. "It was a unanimous decision by the committee (to hire Morris as the head coach). We've told ourselves every day that it was a good decision. We had someone here who knew what to do, who could get us through everything."

The construction of a varsity program is nothing new to Morris, a 14th-round pick by the Baltimore Colts in 1972 from Missouri Valley College.

"Basically I was hired because I had done this before," Morris, 57, said. "I've done this before in the early '70s in Salisbury. My entire career has been rebuilding, retooling, or refocusing."

Morris had retired and was driving to southern Missouri for a vacation when Rudisaile called him. Morris pulled his car to the side of the road, and Rudisaile told him the head-coach position was his, along with a position as a physical education and weightlifting instructor.

"There was total silence," Rudisaile said. "He told me, ‘You know how to make it tough on a guy.'"

Morris discussed the job offer with his wife, Barb, before finally accepting it. They sold the dream house they built themselves in Excello and moved to Hallsville.

He began in 2005 building a team with little experience, and Hallsville played at the junior varsity level for the past two seasons.

Last year, the Indians were 8-0.

"We needed a little more push than last year," Morris said. "We considered ourselves a varsity program. We're not a normal first-year program. It's no transition year."

Because of the effort put forth by the Hallsville community, the program is in a position to replenish itself.

There are about 30 eighth graders who will be moving to the high school football program next season. The Hallsville varsity program has 38 players, 12 of which are seniors.

"We have only one thing in mind," Morris said. "Win, make the playoffs, and win in the playoffs."


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