Warsaw Football Takes Dynasty Era Into Missouri Sports Hall Of Fame


From 1988 to 1995, Warsaw Wildcats football was arguably the top Class 2 program in the state, winning state championships in 1990 and 1993, and reaching the MSHSAA Final Four five other times throughout those eight seasons.

For those reasons, that era for the program was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame as members of it's 2024 enshrinement class at a ceremony and banquet held at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds E-Plex in Springfield on Sunday afternoon.

The Warsaw contingent was led by Randy Morrow, former 'Cats boss and already a Hall of Famer himself after being inducted with the Class of 2011.

"I was so excited to hear that our athletes and coaches were being honored for their accomplishments," Morrow said. "They were so deserving of this honor."

Other coaches making their own appearance included: Bill Ramsey, Loren Burke, Randy Bloess, Tony Berry, Brent Depee, Matt Bohanon and Steve Miller.

"This was well deserved," Berry said. "It was truly one of the most iconic runs of a program in Missouri."

In addition to coaches, other staff members and their spouses, 54 former Wildcats players and several of their brides and significant others made the trek from the likes of Washington, D.C., Cincinatti, Los Angeles and Dallas to be part of the special, once-in-a-lifetime event.

Donny Van Natta, '97 said, "It probably should've happened sooner."

Others also viewed the announcement as somewhat surprising.

"30 years later is a long time," said Rick Branson, '94. "I had no idea that the program from those years would be considered for another honor."

Some players just hoped they made "the cut".

"I had to do the math to make sure that I was included," Josh Noland, '98, said with a laugh.

In 1986, the first under Morrow, Warsaw went 1-9. In 1987, the Wildcats improved slightly to 3-7. The turnaround came in 1988 when the Green and Black reached the state playoffs and advanced to the state semifinals before bowing out with a 14-0 loss to John Burroughs (St. Louis). That year, they finished 11-2.

In 1989, the Wildcats produced a 12-1 record, but once again saw their season end in the semifinals with a loss to the Bombers of John Burroughs.

After coming close twice, Morrow's Marauder's finally had their championship moment in 1990, avenging losses from the prior two years with an overtime win at home over Burroughs.

The next week, the Wildcats rolled past South Shelby, 42-7, earning the program's first state championship.

Warsaw went back to the playoffs in 1991 and 1992, again reaching the semis in '92. The 1993 season culminated with a 13-12 win over Lutheran North (St. Louis) in the title game, cementing the Wildcats perfect 13-0 season and the program's second championship in four years.

In 1994 and 1995, both squads went on to reach the state playoffs, with the '94 team reaching the finals before losing an 18-13 heartbreaker against Monroe City.

Some players and coaches recounted memories from those days.

"Usually going to practice on Thanksgiving, and loving every minute of it," Berry exclaimed!

(Because that meant that you were playing in the state championship.)

Others recalled more specific instances.

"My first year was 1992," former coach Matt Bohanon said. "In the district final, we played 9-0 Versailles. The temps were freezing and there were burn barrels on both sidelines. It was hyped as the game of the century . . . We won, 62-0."

"My freshman year, I was lined up across from Cory Brandt, a senior on the offensive line," Noland said. "I didn't want to make him mad, so when the ball was snapped, I lazily reached up and put my hands on him. He promptly shoved me to the ground and, infuriated, said, 'that's not making me better!', For the rest of the practice, I gave him everything I had. That kind of mindset made Warsaw football different."

Other remembrances were more general.

Van Natta commented, "I remember the full stands and fans lined up all around the track. We had the best cheerleaders, the best fans, and the community really supported us."

Perhaps most importantly were the comments received when players were asked about coaches.

"My coaches (Morrow, Burke and Ramsey) have been a huge influence on football, and life in general," said Dwayne Davis, '89. "They truly are the best. When you go from winning one game our first year to the Final Four, the lessons learned are many. They taught us how to work as a team, be accountable to each other, stay focused, dedicated, disciplined, and most of all, how to work your butt off if you want to change the current situation. They say that every loss is a lesson; and those first couple years, we had way too many lessons. But with our Final Four appearance my senior year, it's safe to say that they taught us well. I am forever thankful!"

"We were expected to do the right thing, on and off the field, and we always appreciated that because it made us better in the long run," stated Joe Hilty, '93.

"The coaches that we played for had a profound effect on our lives," Van Natta said. "They taught us how to work hard and act as young men. They were great men themselves and we still have the utmost respect for them."

Noland agreed.

"I absolutely would not be the person I am today without their guidance," he said.

Through those now Hall of Fame years, friendships were established for players and coaches alike, and for those, all are grateful.

"The bond that is formed when you literally bleed with another person in pursuit of a goal is unbreakable," said Berry.

"I hadn't talked to a few of the guys in years, but when we got together, it doesn't feel like much time has passed at all," said Branson.

"My time at Warsaw gave me life-long friends," said former coach Brent Depee. "Warsaw football gave me a good measuring stick."
Nathan Parks, '96, summed things up.

"Since I have graduated, I have not found anyone else who comes close to having the life experience that we did in Warsaw," he said. "The coaching staff saw in us what no one else did and that belief was contagious. Once we started believing in each ohter, the rest is now part of Missouri history."

Dynasties come in all shapes and sizes. But one of the greatest football dynasties in Missouri high school sports history comes from the Benton County town of Warsaw.

And they now have another plaque to prove it.