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Whether it was destiny or determination, the Fike High Cyclones became state champions with a stirring second-half comeback to defeat South Mecklenburg 28-14 in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4-A title game in Charlotte on Dec. 1, 1967.
It was the second NCHSAA title in football for Fike, which shared the 1958 Class AAA title (the highest at the time) after tying Winston-Salem Reynolds 6-6 in the title game. Wilson’s Charles L. Coon High had won NCHSAA 2-A championships (the highest at the time) in 1944 and 1946.
In winning their 12th straight game after a season-opening loss to Reynolds, the Cyclones had to overcome a 14-0 halftime deficit, which they accomplished on the legs of sensational sophomore Carlester Crumpler and sturdy senior Billy Clark as well as another outstanding effort by the Fike defensive unit. Crumpler announced his presence to the rest of the state by scoring all four of Fike’s touchdowns and accumulating 140 yards on 25 carries while Clark bulled his way to 81 yards on 21 carries. Meanwhile, the Cyclones defense, led by Clark, limited the Sabres to just 16 offensive plays in the second half compared to 42 for Fike.
“That’s the best football we’ve ever played,” proclaimed Fike head coach Henry Trevathan to Wilson Daily Times sports editor David Lamm. “In fact, that’s the best football I’ve ever seen played any place, any time and by any team.”
That wasn’t the case in the first half as the Cyclones sputtered while the Sabres cruised. South Mecklenburg scored on its second possession and then put together a 79-yard scoring drive in the second quarter.
Fike’s offense finally came to life late in the first quarter as the Cyclones drove to the Sabres’ 1-yard line in the final minute. However, Fike quarter Lynn Daniell fumbled and the Cyclones went into the locker room without any points.
But the Cyclones, as Lamm wrote, “came out in the second half and, except for the uniforms, looked like a new team.”
Fike drove 64 yards in 4 minutes, 19 seconds after receiving the second-half kickoff with Crumpler capping the march with a two-yard scoring run. Senior Harold Wilkerson kicked the first of his four extra points.
With senior tackle Eric Moore, who got a new blocking assignment at halftime from Trevathan and offensive coordinator Gus Andrews, leading the offensive line, Fike went 64 yards again to tie the score, converting two fourth-down opportunities including a seven-yard TD pass from Daniell to Crumpler.
The go-ahead score came on a six-yard TD run by Crumpler with 5:09 left in the game after he and Clark carried the ball for most of the 65 yards on the drive.
“South was giving us room in the middle and trying to stop our wide stuff,” Trevathan told Lamm. “With runners like Clark and Crumpler around, we’ll take the middle any time you give it to us.”
On South Mecklenburg’s next drive, junior Steve Windham intercepted Sabres quarterback Steve Chapman and returned the ball 21 yards to the South Mecklenburg 21-yard line. A personal-foul penalty gave the Cyclones a first down at the 11 and, two plays later, Crumpler twisted in from the 9-yard line to put the final stamp on his coronation on the state stage.
South Mecklenburg head coach Bob Patten was initially at a loss for words when talking to reporters after the game before offering praise of the Cyclones.
“When they get rolling, there’s no stopping them. Gee whiz, Wilson has a strong team, the strongest we’ve face — and I’m sure the best in the state,” Patten said.
He was right about that.