The Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame honors its first football team the Richwoods High School Knights. And what a team it was! After a decade of frustration for Peoria-area schools, the Knights brought home the 1984 Class 5A State High School Football Championship. In ten previous playoffs, no team from the Mid-State 10 (now Mid-State 9) had won so much as a second round game.
Richwoods 13-0 season included a first round playoff trip to Mt. Vernon (27-0), followed by wins over state-ranked teams Chicago Heights Marion Catholic (13-7), Joliet Catholic (27-15), and then 21 to 14 over Deerfield in the Championship game.
Basically, it was a senior team with seven starting as sophomores - season record 2-7; as juniors the record was 8-3. The Journal Starís Bob Leavitt called it the greatest turn-around in conference history. In conference play, the 1984 team averaged 36.3 points in nine games, while allowing opponents an average per game of 4.6.
The passing of All-State Greg Peeler and running of All-State fullback Kevin Hattendorf led a fourth-quarter drive to the winning score in the Championship game at Northwesternís Dycke Stadium. Greg was the last of five sons who were standouts at Richwoods for their coach father, Tom Peeler, himself a Hall of Famer, who ended a 30-year coaching career after the season.
USA Today ranked the team 14th in the nation. A record 13 players made All-Conference - 10 of them unanimous selections; and two made All-State. November, 1984, will long be remembered in local high school football history.
Gary Trotter began working with youth sports as early as his college days at Bradley University, when he coached boys' basketball at St. Marks grade school in the late`5Os. He continued by next working with freshman baseball at Peoria High School. Upon graduation in 1958, he entered the service and in 1960 he began working at Pleasant Hill grade school where he taught and coached the boys' sports. He holds great pride in the fact that he was able to coach a state championship basketball team during his stay at Pleasant Hill.