For longtime Dodge Pirates football coach Gordon Pilmore, it wasn’t about the games or the wins. It was about the players, the individuals.
“Believe it or not, most of the memories, there were so many of them as far as team and the games that we played, but I think that most of the memories going back were with individuals more than games. I had a good time with the kids,” Pilmore said. “I think my main purpose there was to get along with the kids, and I enjoy the fact that some of them come back and wanna talk about the old days. That’s my favorite times.”
Pilmore, who coached high school sports for nearly 40 years, will be inducted into this year’s class of the Nebraska 8-Man Football Hall of Fame.
Pilmore got his start at Palmyra in 1961 before moving to Dodge in 1966. He explains how he got into coaching.
“When I was in high school, I think the head coach, I was in Nebraska City, and we had several elementary schools. When I was a sophomore, he pulled me aside one day and asked me if I would consider coaching one of the grade schools in flag football. I took him up on it and I really enjoyed it and I think it kinda stayed with me,” Pilmore said. “So I went in the service, and when I came out I said I think I’m just gonna go ahead and try to do it. And I did, and I’m glad that I did.”
Pilmore coached 8-man football in his early days at Palmyra. When he moved to Dodge, the Pirates were playing 11-man football, and were even part of the old Mid-State Conference, that included storied programs like Norfolk Catholic and Battle Creek.
Then Pilmore would get his second crack at coaching 8-man football once the 90s rolled around, and he helped guide Dodge to four consecutive state championships from 1994-1997.
Pilmore explains his coaching philosophy.
“I think my philosophy was mainly to get the kids interested in what they were doing,” Pilmore said. “You know, football is kind of a brutal game, and if they didn’t wanna play, I didn’t ask them to play. So my main purpose was to try to get them involved and get them interested, and then keep them interested.”
When asked about the state championship teams, the great players and all the wins, Pilmore was quick to spread the recognition to his assistant coaches.
“I think a lot of my success with football was my two assistants. I had two good assistants, Ron Lund, and of course one of your school teachers right there in West Point, Craig Schmidt,” Pilmore said. “One of the old linebackers, I was talking with him not too long ago and he said ‘Craig Schmidt was my defensive coach’ and he was telling me you know ‘Craig, he called me on blitzes quite a few times, and about ninety percent of the time he was right.’ And I can remember he saved us quite a few games. It made a lot of difference. And Ron Lund was a good coach too. … I lucked out with those guys and I depended a lot on them.”
Speaking of the Pilmore coaching tree, Lund took over as head coach at Dodge after Pilmore retired and went on to win two state titles, in 1999 and 2006. And Schmidt was a longtime head football coach at West Point-Beemer.
Pilmore is not the only Pirate gracing the 8-Man Hall of Fame this summer, as two of his former players, Cory Eikmeier and Clint Eikmeier are also being inducted.
“He was a small kid, he wasn’t big. But in junior high, they couldn’t play him all the time because he scored too many touchdowns,” Pilmore said. “He was just quick, fairly good speed. He wasn’t really fast but he just could find the openings and he was just hard to tackle. I thought he was just an outstanding football player all the way around.”
“Tremendously smart guy. I remember when he started, we were practicing one time and he was playing linebacker and he was just a freshman, and the guard was having trouble blocking him in some of the scrimmage plays we were running,” Pilmore said. “I finally said this time we’re gonna try something different. Why don’t you pull to the left and see if you can get Clint to go with you, and we’ll run to the right. And that worked about one step and he caught on and he came back.”
Pilmore, along with Cory and Clint Eikmeier, will be inducted into the 8-Man Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, June 15. The induction ceremony will take place at halftime of the annual Sertoma 8-Man All-Star Football Game at Hastings College. Kickoff for the game is 6:00.