The popular television series “Friday Night Lights” was set in Dillon, Texas but that’s not the only place where high school football is king.
North Carolina has a rich tradition, as well, and one of its most storied programs can be found at Wilson’s Ralph E. Fike High School.
Two members of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame – Coach Henry Trevathan and running back Carlester Crumpler figured into a dynasty there. And with the start of high school football upon us, the NCSHOF is honoring the two as the Members of the Month in August.
Under Trevathan’s guidance and Crumpler’s guile, Fike won three straight 4-A North Carolina High School Athletic Association titles from 1967-1969 and complied a cumulative record of 35-3. The Cyclones went undefeated in 12 games in 1969.
Prior to the first championship run, Fike had suffered through six straight losing seasons. But after a loss to Winston-Salem Reynolds in the first game of the season, the senior-laden Cyclones reeled off 12 straight wins. And Crumpler, a sophomore, came into his own, rushing for more than 1,000 yards.
Crumpler had a particularly outstanding game against South Mecklenburg, scoring four touchdowns in the second half as the Cyclones won their first of three straight 4-A titles.
With those 13 senior starters gone, Fike looked to be rebuilding in 1968. But the Cyclones were able to ride the strong shoulders of Crumpler into the playoffs and when he was injured in the semifinals against Durham, fullback Zeke Church stepped up with 125 yards in the title game against Gastonia Ashley. Fike finished that season with an 11-2 record.
The Cyclones went undefeated in 1969 and became the first school to ever win three NCHSAA 4-A titles in a row. Crumpler had a tremendous season, averaging 9.92 yards per carry as he rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 26 touchdowns. Crumpler, who rushed for 237 yards in the title game against Winston-Salem Atkins, earned high school All-America honors and a scholarship to East Carolina.
Crumpler went on to rush for 2,889 yards for ECU and scored 37 touchdowns as the Pirates won Southern Conference titles in 1972 and ’73. He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills and played briefly for the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League.
Trevathan eventually coached for more than 60 years. He left Fike and coached at East Carolina, Lenoir-Rhyne, Elon, N.C. State and Bridgewater College, as well as the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks of the World League of American Football.
For more information on Trevathan, click here: (https://www.ncshof.org/henrytrevathan).
To learn more about Carlester Crumpler, click here: (https://www.ncshof.org/carlestercrumpler).
Written by Helen Ross, NCSHOF Board of Directors and Rick Strunk, NCSHOF Director of Student-Athlete Program.