Former BHS coach digs all the way back to 1947
By John Titus
What Brentwood High School football player went on to star in the movies “Platoon” and “Major League”?
What former Eagle still holds the world record in the 100-yard dash?
Who made it all the way to the roster of the San Francisco 49ers?
What BHS quarterback never lost a game in three seasons?
These are just a few of the things I discovered while researching this article. Actually I already knew some of the answers, having served as Brentwood’s head football coach from 1958 to 1973. I still live in the area and have continued to follow the team since retiring from the school district in 1989.
Back when I was teaching I wrote a “Brentwood Athletic History” since no records existed in any sport at the time. I started with the football and track teams, which I coached, and moved on to the other sports. I got most of the information from yearbooks, newspapers and written records submitted by coaches.
Last year I started updating what I wrote and I’m happy to share it with you in a series of articles. This first article highlights BHS football. I have tried to stress outstanding events and people but my intimate knowledge begins with my arrival in 1958. I would appreciate hearing from any of you who may have additional knowledge of earlier football events. (See the note at the bottom of this article.)
The BHS football program has an exciting, 68-year history. It has made it to the state championship twice, gone undefeated in the regular season nine times, put together a 26-game win streak, and fielded at least two Parade All-Americans.
Before we go back to the beginning, I’ll answer those four questions I opened with. The movie star is Tom Berenger, who as Tom Moore captained the freshman team in 1963 before moving away. The world class sprinter is Ivory Crockett, who played here two years before finishing up at Webster Groves and going on to break the world record in the 100. The 49er was 1977 graduate Jeff Brockhaus. And the undefeated varsity quarterback was Chuck Roper, 26-0 from 1965-67.
Snake dances in 1947
The first students arrived at Brentwood High School in 1928. Early athletic teams competed in soccer, basketball, volleyball, baseball and track. A cinder track was ready in 1934. The first cheerleaders were organized in 1941-42.
The first football team was formed in 1947 under Coach Carlton Roels, who had played college football and basketball. With no field yet, all home games were played in Maplewood.
In the first game, the Eagles held Clayton scoreless in the first quarter before losing 32-0. That was followed by losses to five other Suburban League teams: Kirkwood, St. Charles, Maplewood, Wellston and Ritenour. The first touchdown in school history was scored on a short run by Frank Tallis against St. Charles. Though the inexperienced Eagles went 0-6 and scored only 26 points, the turnout of almost 40 boys was seen as a promising start.
“Football had the interest of all the students,” the 1947-48 yearbook proclaimed. “Before the first football game a ‘pep rally’ was held on the football field with a very large number of the student body being present. A bonfire, cheers, snake-dances, and more cheers showed the enthusiasm of the students.”
Bob Sweeney, who had played football at Mizzou, took over the team for another winless season in 1948. But in 1949 the experience started to pay off as the Eagles won their first game ever, 26-12 over Eugene Coyle High School of Kirkwood, which later became Vianney. BHS went on to beat Ferguson, St. Charles and Lutheran and ended up 4-6.
Winners at last: 5-3 in ‘53
John Lauer, the school’s boys basketball coach, took the football reins from 1950-53. After going 7-19-1 in his first three years he brought the program its first winning season, 5-3, in 1953.
Also that fall, football had gained in popularity enough for the first freshman team to be formed. Arnold Ryan coached them, followed in 1954 by Bill Long, who did the job for 14 seasons. Long eventually became a city alderman.
Brad Susman (class of 1953) made first team all-district and Ray Booker (1954) and Bob Cooper (1955) were first team all-conference in 1953.
First league title in 1957
Walter Marsh, coach from 1954-57, brought the program its first league championship in 1955, a three-way tie with Clayton and Ladue. Marsh’s teams had three winning seasons in a row.
Marsh’s players in college
Class of 1956: Ed Jordan, Central Missouri State.
1957: Fred Brossart, academic all-league at Mizzou; Ed McWilliams, SE Missouri State.
John Titus, 1958-73
I came to Brentwood in 1958, after coaching three seasons at Warrensburg Public High School. At BHS we won our season opener against Hazelwood but struggled to a 2-6-1 record and had the same type of season the next year, 3-5-1.
Our first breakthrough came in 1960 when we went 7-2 to win the newly formed Suburban Little Six Conference. Our only losses were close ones to Ferguson and Maplewood, who were both undefeated. In 1962 we won the title again with a season-ending victory over Parkway.
In 1965 we started a three-year, 26-game win streak. We were ranked among the top 10 teams in the St. Louis metro area each year. The 1967 seniors never lost a game in their high school careers.
The win streak ended in 1968 but we made it all the way to the Class 3A semifinals of the new state playoffs.
In 1969 with nine starters returning we went 9-0, defeating Clayton 30-29 in the final game after trailing 29-0 at the end of the third quarter. Disappointment followed as we failed to make the playoffs.
Lee Wynn, until recently a city alderman, was my loyal assistant for 15 years.
Titus’s players in college
Class of 1961: Paul Howard, Mizzou.
1965: Ric Kinlough, SE Missouri State.
1966: Lance Renfroe, University of Central Missouri.
1967: Russ Lake and Doug Mackey, SE Missouri State.
1968: Jim Cameron, SE Missouri State; Chuck Roper and Kurt Gebhard were each all-state twice and both played for Mizzou. At BHS Roper was a Parade All-American quarterback and never played in a losing game in high school. He was 26-0 in three years, 31-0 if you count his starts for the freshman team.
1970: Zachary Cartwright, Mizzou; Rick Wuestling, Iowa State; Bill Buckner, NW Missouri State; Jim McNair, Davidson College; Scott Neunuebel, Washington University in St. Louis; and Bill Jackson, Southern Illinois Carbondale, who went on to sign with the Oakland Raiders.
The world’s fastest man and the movie star
As I said earlier, two athletes who played for us briefly and went on to acclaim were Ivory Crockett and Tom Moore.
Crockett was a freshman and a sophomore here in 1964 and 1965 before graduating from Webster Groves. In 1974 he broke Bob Hayes’s 11-year-old world record in the 100-yard dash with a time of 9.0 seconds, earning him the title “the world’s fastest human.” A few years later the distance was changed to 100 meters so Crockett’s record at 100 yards still stands.
Moore was co-captain of Brentwood’s freshman team in 1963 before moving away. He later attended Mizzou, got into acting, changed his name to Tom Berenger and became a movie star. He was nominated for an Oscar for his role in “Platoon” and an Emmy for his appearances on “Cheers.” He also played memorable characters in “Major League,” “The Big Chill” and many other movies.
Bob Penn, 1974 to 2001
After six years as an assistant football coach at BHS, Bob Penn took the team’s reins in 1974. Over the next 27 seasons he led the Eagles to the state playoffs eight times and to three undefeated regular seasons. His teams went as far as the Class 2A state championship in 1987, where they lost 20-13 to Seneca. He reached the semifinals in 1979 and the quarterfinals in 1976, 1988 and 1994.
With longtime assistants Jim Taylor and Charles Kapfer, Penn amassed a record of 162-98-1. When he retired in 2004, after 37 years with the school district, the football stadium was named after him.
One of Penn’s most successful players was punter and placekicker Jeff Brockhaus, who went on to punt and kick for Mizzou and play in the NFL and USFL. He was all-state in 1976 at BHS, then led Mizzou in scoring one year and punting three years. As a kicker he made the rosters of three USFL teams from 1983-85. His big break came when the NFL players went on a three-week strike in 1987 and the San Francisco 49ers hired him as a replacement kicker. In three games he booted three field goals and 11 extra points.
Running back Amero Ware set six school records at Drake University, including yards rushing in a season and in a career. His 1,353 yards rushing in 1981 was eighth best in the NCAA. According to Drake records, Ware signed with the Buffalo Bills and the USFL’s New Orleans Breakers. He died tragically of an aneurysm in 2006, at age 46.
Penn was named the Missouri coach of the year by Sporting News magazine in 1987. He was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2014. He and I, along with 1966 BHS graduate Brian Hagerty, a longtime CBC High School coach, are in the halls of fame of the Missouri Football Coaches Association and the St. Louis Metro Football Coaches Association.
Penn’s defensive coordinator for all 27 years, Jim Taylor, received the 2015 John Kadlec Assistant Coach Award from the St. Louis chapter of the National Football Foundation.
Penn’s players in college
Class of 1977: Wally Christian, a high school all-American, played at Cornell College. Jeff Brockhaus, Mizzou.
1978: Amero Ware, Drake University.
1981: John Tolish and Allen Scales, Duke. Tolish passed for 1,520 yards as a senior at BHS.
1986: Dan Bauer, SE Missouri State; Paul Wynn, Army; Mike Sanders, SW Missouri State.
1988: Mike Butler and Paris Saunders, SW Missouri State; Rob Penn, SE Missouri State.
1989: Anthony Pegues, SW Missouri State.
1995: Louis Findley, NW Missouri State.
1996: Bob Featherston, Central Missouri State and Westminster College; Robert Findley, NW Missouri State, set a BHS record for most yards rushed in a season; Joe Geisz, Westminster; Matt Hardy, Westminster.
1997: Torry Redden played semipro for St. Louis-based Midwest Chargers in Great Midwest Football League; Wesley Wise, William Penn.
1999: Kevin Crump, McKendree University
2000: Mike Davis, Trinity International University.
Wegener to Hughes, 2002-06
In 2001 Brian Wegener was hired to replace Penn. His team went 0-9 in his only year, though Gary Willis rushed for 1,675 yards as a senior in 2001, breaking Robert Findley’s school record.
Roy Hughes was hired to lead the Eagles in 2002. His four-year record was 12-28 but four of his players went on to compete in college.
In 2005, Brandon Ellis (class of 2006) broke season records for rushing yards, all-purpose yards and points scored.
Hardy Ricks was first team all-state in two positions — running back as a junior and defensive back as a senior. In three years he amassed 3,633 yards of total offense, 27 offensive touchdowns, 395 tackles, five defensive TDs and 15 interceptions. The University of Missouri made him their starting safety, where he was considered by many to be the hardest hitter on the team.
Hughes’s players in college
Class of 2001: Damien Conard, Lincoln University in Missouri.
2004: Anthony Kobler, Cornell College; Daryl Sappington, Truman State.
2005: Hardy Ricks was a starting defensive back at Mizzou.
Scott Surgener, 2007-10
Scott Surgener, a linebacker and guard for Coach Penn from 1977-80, was the head coach for several years at Westminster Christian Academy before returning home to lead Brentwood.
After two building years, the 2009 Eagles caught fire. They won three of their four playoff games by less than a touchdown to reach the Class 2 state championship against Maryville at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Though they lost 35-0, it remains only the second time the Eagles have reached the state title game since the playoffs began in 1968.
The 2009 offense was led by quarterback Tywan Brooks (2010) and running back Andrew Erby (2011). The defense had two first team all-staters: lineman Ramond Hunter and linebacker Taylor Dee.
In 2010 Brentwood won the district championship before losing in the sectionals.
Surgener’s players in college
Class of 2009: Thomas Stubbs was a 6-foot-5, 255-pound starting defensive end for Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.
2010: Ramond Hunter, after getting 20 sacks as a BHS senior defensive tackle, led the Uniiversity of Central Missouri in tackling as a junior; Taylor Dee, a linebacker and tight end for BHS who as a senior led the team in both tackles and receptions, was a starting tight end for Illinois Wesleyan; all-state punter and defensive back Tywan Brooks made the roster of Lindenwood University in Belleville, Ill.
Keith Herring, 2011 to present
When Surgener left for a high school coaching job in Florida, the school district hired Keith Herring, who had been the head coach at Class 6 Hazelwood West. Staying on as assistant coaches were Robert Findley (class of 1996) and Jeff Manestar (1983).
Herring brought several major changes to Brentwood’s program. He switched out the I formation for a double-wing on offense, instituted year-round weight training, increased the number of summer camps and got skill players involved in a seven-on-seven league.
The changes have worked. Over the past three seasons (2012-14) his teams are 30-4 and have averaged almost 50 points a game. They’ve won two district titles.
Herring’s teams have produced six all-state selections in four seasons. Defensive lineman David Rivera made the first team. Second teamers were linebacker Tyler Jones, placekicker Dylan McGehee and running back Jacob Clay. On the third team were Clay, offensive lineman John Surgener and linebacker Tyler Pryor-Hall.
As a junior, Clay set school records for rushing yards in a game (364) and in a season (2,554), and for points (274) and TDs (45) in a season.
Most successful high school football programs have freshman and junior varsity teams. Those have been difficult and at times impossible to maintain at BHS, where the enrollment in recent years has been around 230, about half of what it used to be. And yet many incoming freshmen have football experience thanks to the Brentwood Junior Eagles, two club teams for eighth-graders and for sixth- and seventh-graders that have been around since the early 1960s.
For additions or corrections to this article, or any other concerns, please send an email to Brentwood Spirit Editor Steve Bowman at firstname.lastname@example.org.