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.
Larry Leitner was among the state's elite officials for more than 40 years, officiating high school, college and professional sporting events from 1960 through 2003 and he remains involved in sports by serving on the board of directors for the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament, as well as evaluating current officials and moderating IHSA rules clinics.
Among his officiating highlights, Leitner worked more IHSA basketball and football tournament games than any official in the state's history, earning 27 consecutive boys basketball regional assignments. He also worked the IHSA boys basketball state finals in 1973, 1974 and 1976, including the 1976 championship game, and three IHSA football finals, including the first-ever 2A state championship game in 1974. A charter member of the Gateway Conference officiating crew in 1988, Leitner was part of the crew that officiated the 1990 and 1993 NCAA Division I-AA quarterfinals and he served as an associate official for the Big Ten Conference from 1984-88.
Leitner also was called upon to officiate two IESA state championship games, the 1990 National Catholic Basketball finals, three Shriner All-Star football games and the 1980 IBCA All-Star Classic, while also working for two seasons in the Midwest Professional Football League.
Leitner is a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, Peoria Officials and Bloomington/Normal Officials Halls of Fame.