Centre College alumni bring legendary Centre-Harvard game to life in “The Wonder Team”
As the legacy of C6-H0 lives on in Pioneer Playhouse’s production “The Wonder Team,” cast members John W. “Buck” Rogers ’68 and Chase Gregory ’12 can claim their own Centre College legacy as alumni. As Centre graduates, both actors know the background of the play well: the story of Centre’s football team defeating top-ranked Harvard 6-0 in a game that made history in 1921. In addition to their close ties to Centre, both alumni bring talent and experience to the stage in order to do the story justice.
Rogers (pictured below right) has a long history at Centre, first as a student and football player, and later as director of admission and the parent of a student. Rogers recalls hearing the story of the Wonder Team back when he played for Centre’s team. “Our coaches would remind us of Centre’s past and tell us stories about it.”
In 2009, Rogers was inducted into the Centre Athletic Hall of Fame as a standout football player. Rogers says he is proud to be recognized among athletes from the time when Centre had the best college football team in America.
“When I saw my picture on the wall with people of that era who I know were nationally known, it was just a wonderful feeling of honor to be connected with Centre on that level,” Rogers admits.
Rogers plays head coach Charley Moran, a role that came relatively naturally to him, with his experience as both a player and a coach.
“Charley was the coach when the team made the big C6-H0 splash,” Rogers explains. “He’s a very animated, rough disciplinarian, but a believer in hard work and clean living. That’s what most of my coaches were like growing up, so it’s not too difficult for me to portray the character in that sense.”
Rogers believes C6-H0 means different things to different people, but that many of those connected to Centre can identify with the message that bigger isn’t always better.
“Centre is very small in a relative sense, but has made a big footprint on the world,” he says.
Gregory (pictured above, left), who received a degree in dramatic arts from Centre, plays John Y. Brown, Sr. Known to many Kentuckians for his career as a lawyer and politician, Brown was in fact the scrub of the Wonder Team.
“He says he was never much of a leatherhead,” Gregory explains. “He’s mostly the supporting force of the team. He’s self-motivated and intelligent and devoted.”
According to Gregory, his education at Centre thoroughly prepared him for his career as an actor.
“Drama education at Centre is more geared toward a scholarly approach,” he says. “At school I read a lot of plays and learned a lot of theater history, so I feel like I’m able to analyze plays better and generally be a smarter actor than if I had gone to a conservatory and just acted all the time.”
The moral of the Wonder Team story is one that hits home for Gregory as well.
“Anyone can go on to do great things like the Wonder Team did. They were a bunch of scruffy ragtag fellows from Texas, who went on to beat the biggest team in the nation,” he says. “You too can beat the biggest team in the nation, metaphorically speaking.”
Audiences can see Rogers and Gregory in “The Wonder Team” at Pioneer Playhouse Outdoor Theatre in Danville until July 19. Shows run nightly at 8:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, preceded by a special “tailgating” dinner at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 for the show or $28 for dinner and the show. Reservations and more information can be found at the Pioneer Playhouse website.
by Caitlan Cole