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Whatever paths their lives have traversed in the last half century, members of Fike High’s football team in 1967 are forever bonded by an experience that had an impact far beyond winning the state 4-A championship.
The 28 young men, now with grandchildren and collecting Social Security, jump-started Wilson’s greatest sports dynasty. The Cyclones of head coach Henry Trevathan would go on to win the North Carolina High School Athletic Association championship the next two years — becoming the first 4-A school to win three straight state titles — but the 1967 Cyclones were a special bunch in a special time in Wilson.
“That period of time for me is still special because they’re have been so many connections to it,” said Lynn Daniell, the senior quarterback in 1967. “We accomplished a lot right then but the thing was that it was a lot of work to get there. We had to lose a lot. We had a lot of frustrations. I think it built within us the ability to endure and to be patient and that ultimately there can be some really good results. I kind of have lived my life like that.”
Fike had won just three games the previous year and hadn’t had a winning season since 1960 but Trevathan instilled a sense of purpose that created the belief that they were champions.
“He was big in making you look like a winner,” said Eric Moore, another one of the 14 seniors in 1967. “You sometimes have to act as if until you get to where you need to go. … He started treating us like winners.”
The seniors in 1967 started playing in eighth grade at Charles L. Coon Junior High when Trevathan first took over at Fike in 1964. They grew up through his system.
“We were Henry’s boys, so to speak,” said Jerold Williams, a senior offensive and defensive lineman.
Trevathan’s impact on their lives as young men has withstood the test of time.
“If you take all the players who have ever played for him and asked all those guys to name the top five or six men in their lives, I’d have to say everyone of those players would put Henry Trevathan on their list,” senior end/linebacker/placekicker Harold Wilkerson said.
OUT OF THE DARKNESS
The senior members of the team were the ones who led Fike out of the proverbial darkness of the losing seasons. While several went on to play football in college, including Billy Clark, Daniell and Moore at N.C. State and Wilkerson at Davidson, none were as physically gifted as, say, Carlester Crumpler, the sensational sophomore who went on to become one of the greatest running backs in North Carolina high school football history before a hall-of-fame career at East Carolina. But, to a man, they were all good high school players.
“With the people on the team, there were no bad individuals,” said David Lanier, the Cyclones’ senior middle linebacker and defensive signal-caller. “It was only people who were willing to dedicate themselves stayed on it.”
They had to be because there were only 28 players on the roster, one less than before the team’s preseason scrimmage. Senior Briggs Sherwood suffered a career-ending concussion in the scrimmage, further shortening an already thin roster.
“It’s always been something I’ve been proud of, to look back and think you can only put 11 people on the field at one time and everyone played a role because we didn’t have that many,” Wilkerson said.
But all of them, even the ones who were part of the Fike program in previous years, were part of the end result, Moore said.
“I think everybody on that team, even the ones that got hurt or didn’t play, were all part of that team,” he said.
While the 1967 seniors may not have been exceptionally talented, their lives then and over the years have shown they were exceptional people.
“We may not have had the talent that team but, probably like me, there were a bunch of hardheads on that team that weren’t going to accept defeat,” said Sarvis Bass, the senior pulling guard on Fike’s unbalanced offensive line. “It’s harder to develop a winning attitude than to maintain one.”
That winning attitude was in part forged during Trevathan’s practices that would make a Marine drill sergeant blush.
“Especially when they put the lights up at Fike High School!” said John Pike, a senior lineman in 1967, noting that sunset was no longer an obstacle for lengthy practice sessions.
Trevathan’s unwavering commitment to being the best, on and off the field, spread throughout the team and the community. Going from a losing program to state champion to dynasty didn’t happen overnight.
“It was a long process,” Daniell said. “Coach Trevathan had that vision and it took us awhile to really believe it or start experiencing it.”
Wilkerson said that the 1967 Fike players thought they were good enough to win a state title but, “we just didn’t know how we were going to do it. We hadn’t learned to believe in ourselves yet.”
MORE THAN A TROPHY
That process, maybe more than anything else, is what has endured with the players on that team. The feeling of victory is fleeting, Bass reminded. He said that he was so focused on winning a state title that he ultimately found it unfulfilling.
“It did but that kind of led me to Christ,” he said. “I realized that unless I attached myself to something that was more important to me that I was going to continue to have those empty feelings when I met my goals.”
For Moore, it was never about winning it all.
“When we won the state championship, I remember saying to Sarvis, “What’s the big whoop, you know?’” Moore recalled. “I never knew if anybody else felt like that. It was like another day at the office for me. It was just a job. I went to it everyday after school and practiced. I thank God I had some talent.”
But Moore agreed that, while the players on the team might not have been as close off the field as on it, they did share a common trait — “We all hated to lose.”
Three seniors from the 1967 team — Clark, Bob Johnston and Steve Barnes — and assistant coach Dave Everett have passed away. All left indelible impressions.
“I don’t think anybody would want to line cup against him when he was at the defensive end position or anybody in our conference could bring him down one on one when he was playing fullback,” Bass said of his fellow co-captain Clark.
Johnston, who pitched Fike to the state 4-A baseball championship in the spring of 1968, was an athletic marvel who starred at Atlantic Christian College before playing minor league baseball for parts of a four seasons.
Barnes was a tough-as-nails lineman who, like many of his teammates, played both ways.
Everett, like Andrews, was just a couple of years removed from being a standout player at N.C. State.
“Dave Everett was the one I got the most inspiration from,” Wilkerson said. “You could see that he’d rather put on the pads and get out there.”
Fifty years later, their journey to winning a state championship and starting the Fike dynasty still brings a smile to the faces of the players who made it happen.
We were a bunch of individuals that came together for a common goal and that was to win a championship,” Williams said. “And we did.”