Played for Hancock, coached with Morrow
Dr. Tony Berry, Stockton High School alum and current superintendent of the Bolivar school district, will be honored as part of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Elite 11 during the Hall’s annual football luncheon, set for 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, at University Plaza Hotel and Convention Center in Springfield.
Berry is not certain he deserves such a lofty honor.
“Gerald Andrews, who’s the executive director of the Hall of Fame, he called me and told me about it, and I thought he was joking or something,” Berry recalled Monday, Sept. 9, in his Bolivar office. “My reaction? Shoot, I don’t deserve this. I figure there’s a lot of other better football players that probably deserve the honor a little bit more.”
Berry was All-State, All-Ozarks by the Springfield News-Leader and All-Area by the Joplin Globe in 1985 for Stockton High School, where he played for coach Steve Hancock, a 2009 Hall of Fame inductee. Berry also earned all-conference and all-district his junior and senior seasons as an offensive and defensive lineman.
Berry said his favorite memories from high school were “all the relationships and the friendships that were found through football. It was truly amazing to think, when you grow up just playing. I moved to Stockton when I was in fourth grade.
“One of the things I stress today and when I was coaching, we want to get into a system where we have kids growing up together, and that’s what’s awesome about Stockton. We weren’t just vested into Stockton Tiger football, we were vested into each other and wanted to see the success of each other.”
Berry said his seventh-grade team was winless and the eighth grade won only two games. He recalled some patrons did not think Hancock could achieve anything with his class at the varsity level.
“Good, bad or whatever, a bunch of us were just ugly kids who didn’t have anything else to do,” Berry said. “We just started playing football. We got into the weight room and we were just crazy about getting stronger and getting better. By the time it all ended up, the ’85 team was the furthest any Stockton team has ever gone.”
The 1985 Tigers were one of three Stockton teams to reach the state semifinals, where they lost to Plattsburg.
“God blessed us with a lot of talent,” Berry said. “I was not the strongest player on our team, Andy Lindsay was. He was as fast or faster than I was. Then we had Dean Tuter and Chad Culver, they were both big and athletic. David Roby still might go down as one of the smartest kids to ever graduate from Stockton High School. There was a very high intelligence factor, and we were a single unit who wanted the best for each other. Tim Johans and Brian Jones were the tight ends, and when you play for Coach Hancock, everybody’s going to be able to block.
“We practiced a long time, we practiced very hard, we practiced relentlessly.”
Berry said he tries to keep up with the Tigers even now, checking for their scores every week.
Berry was one of the first players to ever compete for Southwest Baptist University, doing so from 1986-90. His 292 career total tackles rank 10th in Bearcat history and his 165 assisted career tackles are sixth-most in program history. Berry earned NAIA All-District 16 honors as a sophomore defensive end and was a two-time All-MIAA linebacker, including his junior season when he was the team’s second-leading tackler.
“I was coached well and I had some great people in front of me to take on blocks,” Berry said of his college days. “They were able to take up double-teams and I was usually able to go run and make tackles. It’s great to be on a [career tackle] list, but there were a lot of people who helped me to get to those places where I could make a play.”
Berry coached at Warsaw, first assisting coach Randy Morrow, a 2011 Hall of Fame inductee as the Wildcats played in three state championship games, winning it all in 1993. Berry was then head coach for five years, winning three district titles and reaching the state semifinals in 2002.
He later served as Branson High School’s athletic director from 2007-14 and has served as assistant superintendent of School of the Osage and then superintendent of Bolivar in recent years.
Berry noted his family started the Bill Berry Scholarship Fund in memory of his father, which awards $1,000 each year to a Stockton student involved in agriculture or athletics.
“Thank you to the Stockton tradition and to the Stockton community for supporting me during my junior high and high school career,” Berry said. “There are a lot of people there I owe a debt of gratitude to.”