Nearly 50 years after near miracle run, the Appleknockers nearly do it again
So Good they Wrote a Book About It
Back in 1964, before divisions were established in Illinois high school playoffs, the Cobden Appleknockers advanced all the way to the state finals in boys basketball. The final score – the Appleknockers lost 50-45 to Pekin – doesn’t represent the numbers most fans remember. The number, instead, was 147 – the high school’s enrollment. The Appleknockers competed twice a day against schools more than 10 times their size from cities such as Chicago, including the state championship loss to Pekin, a town of 30,000 near Peoria in the central part of the state.
The Amazing Appleknockers fell short, but, they had the hearts of giants. Teri Campbell and Anne Ryman authored the story of the ’64 team. Cobden’s dramatic run to the finals captured hearts and minds all across Southern Illinois.
History Repeats Itself
Nearly 50 years later, Cobden has done it again. In USA TODAY High School Sports “Best Mascot” competition, the Appleknockers earned 626,836 votes in the first round.
They earned enough votes to win any other state, except for their own. The Centralia Orphans earned 679,001 votes, overcoming a deficit of more than 70,000 votes in the final day, partly thanks to organized voting efforts at a much larger school. The Appleknockers repeated history with an inspiring run, but fell just short.
Steve Pryor, an Appleknocker who graduated in the 1970s and has three boys who’ve attended Cobden, said he worked to rally voters to Cobden’s cause.
“I’ve got a blog on retired greyhound rescue, and I worked to recruit other rescue advocates worldwide to vote,” he said. Pryor also created promotional banners for social media.
What about the students?
Cobden High School allowed students to vote from school during study halls, and opened the computer labs for voting after 5 p.m. Appleknocker Nation extends well beyond the small town in Southern Illinois, where orchard workers in the 1930s and 40s were known locally as Appleknockers.
Many Appleknocker fans are joining the support for the Centralia Orphans in the second round, which began Wednesday.
“It was hard fought,” Pryor said, “but, we lost to a great team, and we hope that their spirit and Southern Illinois win the whole thing. Centralia is only 75 miles away. Their fans have been nothing but class, during and after the contest.
We lost to a great team, and we hope that their spirit and Southern Illinois win the whole thing.
“Overall, it’s a good thing, a real good thing I believe. Maybe it shows that you don’t necessarily have to be out there, in somebody’s face, to make a difference.”
Inspiring? Sure. But the Appleknockers aren’t always destined for an inspiring run that comes up just short. To find the championships, look to the girls softball team, winners of three straight state titles from 2008-2010.
“Once an Appleknocker, always an Appleknocker.”
Once an Appleknocker, always an Appleknocker