The recent demolition of the red brick football grandstand at Terry Sanford High School has caused me to wax nostalgic about one of Fayetteville’s oldest high school football stadiums.
I spent many Friday nights on the sidelines and in the press box at that imposing structure during my nearly 50 years of reporting on high school athletics in Fayetteville and Cumberland County. Many of the nights I was there, I was following the exploits of a pair of great coaches, first Len Maness and later John Daskal. Both guided Terry Sanford teams to the pinnacle of state football excellence at the time, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4-A championship game.
I have been running through the cluttered files of my brain, thinking back to great moments on that field near Fort Bragg Road. But I decided it best not to rely on my own memory when trying to remember the most incredible nights I spent there.
I reached out to Bulldog stars of multiple generations for their input on the greatest games they remembered. I got several good replies, but the one game mentioned most, and the one I’d like to share with you in this column, took place in the third round of the NCHSAA state 4-A playoffs in 1985.
Terry Sanford was scheduled to host a strong Jacksonville team coached by the great Ray Durham, who I’d known since my college days at UNC-Wilmington when he was the head coach at Wilmington’s Hoggard High School.
A few years earlier, Durham’s Jacksonville team took on Douglas Byrd in a playoff game won by Bob Paroli’s Eagles. In writing a column after the game, I learned a painful lesson about taking misguided advice from someone I trusted. They convinced me that Jacksonville had tried to even the odds with Byrd by watering its field to slow down the Eagle running game.
I got blistering letters from the Jacksonville principal and one from Durham himself.
That Friday in 1985 was the first time I’d covered Durham’s team since. The whole thing had long since blown over, but Durham was waiting for me when we arrived at Terry Sanford that Friday night and were greeted by a downpour.
Durham and Daskal were huddled in the breezeway next to the Terry Sanford stadium watching the rain come down.
As I walked up, Durham looked at me, a kind of crooked grin on his face, and said, “Well, you wet the field, didn’t you.” Touché, coach.
Anyway, the contest was postponed to the following Monday.
Jacksonville took command early and appeared on the way to the win with a 21-7 lead. But Terry Sanford fought back and, in the final minutes, cut the Jacksonville margin to 21-20.
Instead of going for the tie, Daskal elected to try for the 2-point conversion and the win. Quarterback Trey Edge, now the radio voice of Bulldog football on Friday nights for DK Sports, Inc., found his way into the end zone to clinch the 22-21 victory.
Terry Sanford would go on to make the state 4-A championship game against Greensboro Page, where it wound up suffering a heartbreaking loss. Page returned a blocked field goal on the game’s final play for 75 yards and the winning score.
Ironically, Terry Sanford will spend the 2019 football season playing its games in John Daskal Stadium at Reid Ross Classical High School while construction is underway on the new stadium on Fort Bragg Road.
The Bulldogs are expected to begin play in the new stadium in the 2020 season.