As nearly 1,000 watched, two local coaching legends were inducted to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, the afternoon of Sunday Nov. 3 at Columbia’ Holiday Inn Executive Center.
They were Barry Koeneke who is entering his 45th year as Hallsville High School baseball coach and Erle Bennett who coached the Centralia High School Panthers football team for 27 years, 22 as head coach.
This spring Koeneke enters his 45th season as the head coach of the Hallsville High School Baseball Program and does so with 1,157 games coached and a 684-473 record. His teams advanced to eight Final Fours (1983, 1984, 1987, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2013, 2018), winning state championships three times – 1987, 2004 and 2005. His teams also captured 15 district titles.
“I like to use the game of baseball as a vehicle, and I want to teach young men how to grow up,” Koeneke said. “You can teach that in practice and how to approach a game. And I’m doing the same thing I did in 1975 as I am in 2000-and-whatever.”
For Bennett, who retired from high school coaching three years ago, while there is life after football, football has been a big part of his life.
Back in 1989, newly hired assistant football coach Erle Bennett rolled into the rural community of Centralia at a time of low participation numbers and little success. And his previous stop had been a similar challenge. But …
“If I did anything right, it was that, I stayed in Centralia and stayed at it,” Bennett said.
He certainly enjoyed a remarkable, 27-year run at Centralia High School, including 22 seasons as head coach, and put the Panthers on the state map. It’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Bennett with the Class of 2019.
From 1994 to 2016, Centralia earned 206 wins, including 70 consecutive regular-season victories from 2005 to 2012.
The 2003 team (14-0) won the Class 2 state championship, and two others nearly pulled the trick, too: the 2002 team was a state runner-up, the 2009 team a state semifinalist. Along the way, his teams won 11 district and nine conference championships.
In Bennett’s first season as head coach, Centralia finished 8-2, its only losses to eventual state champion Monroe City and eventual state runner-up Warsaw (a year after Warsaw won Class 3). Contending then became routine in the Clarence Cannon Conference.
“We were doing a lot of things right,” Bennett said, noting participation numbers ballooned to the point that Centralia’s varsity no longer relied on freshmen and sophomores. Plus, he gained a voice on the hiring of assistant coaching candidates. “The staff gelled. I had three to four guys who all were like head coaches.”
For the complete article, see the November 6 edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard.