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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

GHS field, archway to be tribute to John Fallis

Monday, April 25, 2011

Former Greencastle High School football players are raising money to construct a metal and brick archway that will designate the playing surface at Robert L. Harbison Stadium as "John Fallis Field" in honor of the retired Hall of Fame coach, right, who led the local program for 20 seasons.
The football legacy of John Fallis was not built on wins and losses at Greencastle High School -- although it easily could have been -- it was built on core principles that transcend sports and life.

And his former players want all future Tiger Cubs and everyone who attends future football games at Robert L. Harbison Stadium to know and embrace those Fallis-cherished ideals of Discipline, Commitment, Enthusiasm and Effort.

That is why former Fallis players have organized an effort to name the Harbison Stadium playing surface as John Fallis Field. As part of that, they have organized a fundraising effort to erect a brick and metal archway between the home locker room and field. Incidentally, the Fallis Field name already has school board approval (and will not affect the name of Harbison Stadium).

"Outside of my family, John Fallis had the biggest single impact on me becoming who I am today," praised Greencastle Middle School Principal Shawn Gobert, a 1986 GHS graduate who played linebacker and tight end for Fallis teams that included the 1985 group that went through the regular season unbeaten.

Classmate John Hecko, who quarterbacked the 1985 team that ended up ranked sixth in Class 2A, agreed with Gobert.

"John Fallis was a father figure," Hecko, who also played safety two seasons, said. "Shawn and I both coached, as well as played for him, and when we got to know him more as a man, we realized all the things he stood for and realized the time he put into all this was absolutely amazing."

To date, the fundraising effort has raised about $1,500. Building of the football-shaped archway will take about $12,000, organizers noted, while the full project aimed at redoing the northeast corner of the stadium area will necessitate $25,000. The latter effort would include replacing the gravel with blacktop, landscaping the area to make a "more inviting space," Hecko said, along with creating a turf walkway from the locker room to the field.

"This is our way of saying, 'John, we love you and thank you for doing the things you did for us,'" Hecko said.

Former GHS players, friends, admirers, students of his math classes and anyone else can make tax-deductible contributions to the project by making checks payable to GHS with "Fallis Field" in the memo line. Checks can be sent to Russ Hesler in care of Greencastle High School, 910 E. Washington St., Greencastle, IN 46135 (more information is available at rhesler@greencastle.k12.in.us).

Credit card donations will be accepted through manager Sue Kass at the high school bookstore. (skass@greencastle.k12.in.is) or by calling 653-9711, Ext. 209.

The archway design will include half of a football displayed horizontally with "John Fallis Field" and his Discipline Commitment, Enthusiasm and Effort ideals shown below the laces. A purple line will be symbolically added below it.

"We have tried to incorporate as many of his principles as possible in the design," Hecko added, noting that a purple line was always painted across the area where the GHS team would enter the practice or playing field.

"John wanted you to know that the minute you crossed over that line, it was all business," Hecko explained.

Fallis was head coach at GHS for 20 years and served as an assistant for three seasons. His overall GHS record was 121-81 with three undefeated regular seasons in 1985, 1991 and 1995. He won five conference championships at Greencastle and was inducted in the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

Fallis retired from coaching after leading Hagerstown High School for a second time last season. Overall his career coaching record was 195-141 with 33 years as a head coach and 10 as an assistant.

Gobert was quick to point out that Fallis "never asked more of the kids than he did of himself and the coaches."

In fact, if a coach was caught cussing, he would end up right alongside the players, running the hilly mile "reminders" Fallis often used to teach discipline and motivate his team.

"He was a pretty hard-core disciplinarian," Hecko praised. "He's the reason I get up and go to work every day like I do."

Organizers hope to have $12,000 raised in time to construct the John Fallis Field archway in time for the Purple and Gray intrasquad game that kicks off the season on Saturday, Aug. 6.

Individuals donating $100 or more will be listed on a metal plaque to be permanently attached to one of the brick pillars. Businesses donating $250 or more will be recognized in the program or on the plaque.

Gobert and Hecko said even smaller amounts like $10 or $25, or whatever former players and students can afford, will help the project reach the necessary total to honor Fallis.

"Here we are 25 years after we graduated," Hecko said, "and we've still here talking about John Fallis. That speaks volumes to what he means to each and every one of us."

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