(Note: This is another in a series of stories that had to be deleted from the final manuscript of my latest book, "Dusty, Deek, and Mr. Do-Right: High School Football In Illinois," published by University of Illinois Press. To my knowledge, it is the first book ever written on the subject. So I wanted to cover everything. I wrote 150,000 words but the publisher wanted 100,000. I will continue to publish the deleted stories on my blog)
Mark Carlson remembers when Paul Adams, his high school coach at Deerfield, took him aside, explained something more important than X's and O's and pointed him in the right direction--toward a successful career in college and business.
"I will never forget in the winter after my sophomore year, I was sitting in the training room," Carlson recalled."He closed the door and told me: 'You don't know the opportunities you will have if you work your butt off and keep your nose clean. You can play football anywhere you want to go.' That's when I committed myself to doing whatever it took. He made me realize my potential was unlimited. He saw something in me that he wanted to invest in and he got my attention and commitment."
Later, as a senior, after quarterbacking Deerfield to a 13-0 season and a state championship, Carlson was named to the Champaign News-Gazette's All-State team. Adams took Carlson to the newspaper's All-State banquet in Champaign. The speaker was NFL Hall of Famer Ray Nitschke of the Green Bay Packers, who had been Adams' roommate when they were playing for Ray Eliot at Illinois.
"I tried Ray's Super Bowl ring on my thumb," Carlson said. "Those were unforgettable times. Coach Adams was my first mentor. He taught me what it took to win, how to sacrifice physically and mentally, how to be a leader, how to prepare for competition. I'm forever indebted to him for taking me under his wing and giving me opportunities."
In the coaching fraternity, Adams was generally recognized as one of the most capable teachers of all. He especially was renowned for his ability to break down film, to dissect strengths, weaknesses and tendencies in opposing teams.
"We were better prepared than our opponents," said Carlson, who went on to be a three-year starter at Minnesota.
Adams was producing winning teams at Deerfield before Carlson arrived. In 26 years, he has only one losing season. His teams were 213-56, a .792 winning percentage. In his last 20 years, before he retired after the 1992 season, his teams were 184-36, an .836 winning percentage. He won a state championship in 1975 with Carlson and was second in 1977, 1981 and 1984.
Adams comes from Greek roots. His real name is Adamoupolos. His father came to the United States when he was 17. After settling in the Chicago area, he began working construction on the railroad. Over a period of 40 years, he directed gangs that laid track from Milwaukee to Chicago. His son picked up on his father's work ethic. And he insisted that his players work hard, too.
"I used to dwell on the family concept quite a bit," he said. "We do that because of our experiences we had growing up. We had to follow rules. We couldn't lie or deceive. When you do something wrong, you don't just cast a shadow on yourself but on your entire family.
"In coaching, you are part of a big family. You must be at your best in school and at home and in athletics and in the community because you are representing them all. In our area, at that time, I don't think young people had the same kind of grasp of what a family was as I did."
Adams' players came from fairly affluent families, not blue collar. Their parents insisted on them being winners. The kids were hard workers but they weren't tough inner city types and they weren't very big. But they fully understood the value of being successful in athletics and academics.
"In football, we wanted to play error free. Don't make mistakes," Adams said. "I told them: 'You may not be the biggest, strongest or fastest players on the field but each of you can master your own assignments. If you don't beat yourselves and make mistakes, you'll win a lot of games.' The philosophy caught on."
It all came together in 1975. Deerfield was coming off a 7-3 season in which the Warriors were eliminated by St. Viator in the first round of the first state playoff. There were high expectations because the senior class had plenty of talent, including Carlson, running backs Dave Percak and Dave Wise, flanker Don Chester, tackles Mac Nezbed and Jim Connors and 5-6, 158-pound middle linebacker Phil McGlauchlin. Adams said McGlauchlin was "as tough as any player I ever had."
En route to a 13-0 season, Deerfield defeated perennial conference powers Evanston and New Trier back-to-back for the first time, built a 38-0 halftime lead against Highland Park and stormed past Glenbrook South 35-7, Glenbard West 14-0, Loyola 35-13 and Rockford Boylan 14-7 in the state playoff.
Carlson, who was selected as the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year, ran for one touchdown and completed 8 of 15 passes for 112 yards in the state final. His eight-yard scoring pass to Bob Brown with 2:48 to play accounted for the game-winning touchdown.
"When the wishbone was popular, we were a wing-T team," Adams said. "We stressed misdirection. We felt we could make an opponent make a bad decision by creating the illusion that the ball was going one way when in reality it was going another."
"We became men together as seniors," Carlson said. "It rates with the great team accomplishments I've been a part of. Nothing is more satisfying than to be part of a team and being the best at what you do. It was magical to be a part of it. Nobody was more special than anyone else."
In 1977, Deerfield upset St. Laurence 14-0 in the semifinals but lost to East Leyden 8-0 for the Class 5A title. The game was played in a wind chill of 64 degrees below zero. "It was the only time I remember when I was coaching that midway in the third quarter I said to myself: 'I don't care who wins this game. Get me off this sideline.' That's how cold it was," Adams said.
East Leyden ran a wishbone. The Eagles threw only one pass. Jim Benedetto carried 28 times for 114 yards. After a 16-yard punt, he scored the only touchdown on a three-yard run with 2:49 left in the third quarter, capping a 39-yard drive. Deerfield' misdirection couldn't get untracked on the slippery surface. Leading rusher Bob Kartheiser was limited to 45 yards in 18 rushes. Deerfield's defense was anchored by tackle John Murphy.
In 1981, Deerfield won its first three playoff assignments by margins of 49-7, 44-21 and 24-0 but lost in the Class 5A final to Joliet Catholic 8-7. Jim Stadler scored on a 53-yard interception return with 10:44 left in the third quarter but Joliet Catholic bounced back as Andy Bebar (26 carries, 113 yards) scored on a seven-yard run and Tom Seneker ran for a two-point conversion with 6:27 left in the period.
Deerfield had a chance to win in the closing seconds. The Warriors marched 80 yards to Joliet Catholic's 10. Then Stadler, the quarterback, was injured. On fourth-and-three from the left hash mark, Adams called for a field goal. It sailed wide right.
In 1984, Deerfield won its first three playoff games by margins of 21-0, 28-0 and 43-22 but fell to Peoria Richwoods 21-14 in the state final. Bill Crawford rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns and Jim Franks gained 123 yards for the Warriors, who led 14-7 in the third quarter. But Richwoods, behind quarterback Greg Peeler and running back Kevin Hattendorf, rallied to win. Hattendorf scored in the third quarter and with 4:22 to play to turn the tide.