If the old guard of Missouri high school football – that is, former coaches, officials, sports writers and broadcasters – ever got to talking about the best programs in state history, there are only a select few that would merit discussion.

One of them can be found in Kansas City, at a private school near the state line. There, you’ll find a trophy case that is running out of real estate. Well, that and a ton of pride.

Which is why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct the Rockhurst High School Football Program with the Class of 2023.

Indeed, he Football Hawklets of Rockhurst have been one of the most storied programs in state history. Overall, they have played in 16 state championships games, winning nine of them.

The state titles are fourth-most in state history and cover the years 1971, 1981, 1983, 1986, 1987, 2000, 2002, 2007 and 2010.

Rockhurst’s state runner-up finishes were in the years 1969, 1973, 1982, 1989, 1999, 2014 and 2018.

Overall, the program is 760-263-35 since its founding in 1916, and has had only four head coaches since 1952. Al Davis’ teams earned 153 wins between then and 1975, Jerry Culver’s had 63 through 1982, and Tony Severino (MSHOF 2018) was 345-92-1 from 1983 to 2019. Kelly Donohoe (MSHOF 2019) has coached since.

Over the years, the program produced several National Football League players in Tim Ryan, Kenyon Rasheed, Derek Hall, Jordan Willis, Robert Gamble, Dexter McDonald, Kerry Reardon, Jerry Reardon, Mark Goodspeed, Chris Garlich, Brad Budde and Paul Migliazzo.

Former player Chris Powell, who played on the 1987 state championship team, could have been speaking for all Hawklets when he offered these words:

“Rockhurst Football is a family and a family who is always there for one another in good times and bad for the Greater Glory of God (AMDG)!,” Powell said. “We were led by great coaches, especially Coach Severino. They taught us to be leaders, not followerss.”

Said Ivan Charbonneau, “Coach Sev commanded respect before players even entered the program. From the time I attended the youth football camps, he held a legendary status.”

And that’s the key to Rockhurst Football. It took everybody. For instance, Eric Berg was Severino’s defensive coordinator for 35 years, while John Morris coached the offensive line for 34 years. Even better, Severino made certain that assistants and players had lives outside of football, as he did not call on any coaches meetings on Sundays so that they could spend time with their families.

“I don’t want to be remembered for how many wins and losses,” Severino once said. “But hearing from players, the pictures they send of their kids, that’s what means the most to me.”

What all went in to making the state championships happen?

Said Pat Ryan, a member of the 1987 team, “The combination of expectation, talent, coaching and competitiveness all mixed together.”

Rockhurst’s first state title was a 14-10 victory against Beaumont in the Class 4 championship game in 1971. That team finished 11-0.

Four times in the 1980s Rockhurst beat Hazelwood Central in the state championship. The 1981 team (12-1) dominated with a 35-14 victory. The 1983 team (12-2) eked out a 12-7 win, and the 1986 team (11-1) won 13-10. A year later, the 1987 Hawklets (12-1) won 7-0.

Rockhurst won it all again in 2000, finishing 14-0 after a 23-7 victory against Pattonville. The 2002 team (13-0) dominated Lindbergh 13-0. The 2007 team (13-0) won the Class 6 state title with a 28-9 victory against Mehlville. The 2010 team (14-0) beat Hazelwood Central 14-0.

In the state runner-up finishes, Rockhurst had four losses by 10 points or less.

In other words, preparation always put the Hawklets in position to have success.

“We all knew what the expectations were while wearing that uniform,” Chris Russell said. “You are representing Rockhurst High School, whose motto, “Men for Others,” was not just a saying. Respect your coaches, respect the refs, respect the opponent and leave it all on the field. We knew that if we made a quarterback sack, we would help the quarterback back up. We might tell him, ‘I’ll be right back,’ but we helped them up.”

“There is truth to the phrase culture of winning,” Russell added. “We had it. We lived it. It has lasted with me my entire life.”