Gallagher column: New North coach giving history lessons
Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 5, 2008
Just call new North Rowan football coach Tasker Fleming the Rainbow Warrior.
After leading young athletes at six different high schools since 1986, you can imagine how colorful the wardrobe in his closet must be.
“I’ve been red, I’ve been old gold and navy, I’ve been orange …” Fleming smiled.
Now he can add green to his collection.
Fleming has always associated colors with certain schools. Green always brought to mind strong programs like Richmond County and Bunn. He’d now like to see people across the state associate green with North Rowan.
“I hope people see that green means something,” he said. “The green we put on is going to represent our community.”
Trying to win over the people of Spencer is tops on Fleming’s agenda right now. He is replacing Avery Cutshaw, who was fired after six seasons, and he wants to bring back a sense of pride and respect.
In other words, Fleming, a math teacher by trade, will be conducting history classes with his new team.
“You look at this school’s 50-year history and there is a lot of tradition,” Fleming said. “Some of that may need to be polished. My job is to teach the kids the history of this program.”
If Fleming does his homework, his players are in for a long session. From Larry Thomason (125 wins) to Roger Secreast to Cutshaw, the Green Machine has produced some incredible numbers by some incredible athletes.
We thought we’d seen the greatest runner ever in Spencer when Jimmy Heggins bowled over everyone for 1,606 yards in 1973, including a 254-yard performance against West Davidson.
That is, until Mark Sturgis ran for 1,613 yards two years later.
Who can forget guys like Bennie Geter? Remember when J.R. Neely scored five touchdowns against East Rowan in 1997?
And if Fleming ever gets to glance at the Rowan County record book, he’ll be stunned to see what North Rowan quarterbacks have accomplished:
– Total offense leaders in a season? The first seven players on the list wore green: Alfonzo Miller, Daniel Griffith, Mitch Ellis, Mario Sturdivant, Ellis again, Cameron Wood and Sakelo Lilly. Twelve of the top 15 names were Cavaliers.
– Single-game total offense? The first 11 on the county list wore green, led by Graham Hosch, who once ripped 4A Scotland County for 443 yards.
– Single-season passing yardage? The first 10 on the list were Cavs.
– Single-game passing yardage? Sturdivant had 414 yards against East in Neely’s 5-TD game.
Super Mario, by the way, is the county’s all-time leader with a whopping 6,556 yards passing and 7,473 yards of total offense in three seasons.
That’s a quick, little history lesson for Fleming. He realizes it’s these former stars he can turn to for support.
“We want to make it attractive for those players to come back and watch us on Fridays,” he said.
Fleming would like to make some history himself. He expects this to be his final stop.
Over the past 21 years, he has coached at Franklinton, Western Harnett, Eastern Wayne, St. Paul’s, Northern Vance and North Davidson.
“This will be the last move,” said the 44-year-old. “I plan to be here until it’s time to watch my son play.”
Fleming’s kid is 4, so he’ll have plenty of time to re-create the excitement that used to bring a ton of fans to Eagle Stadium.
He’s ready for anything, considering he has been a part of practically every scenario known to prep football.
“At Northern Vance, we had a second-round playoff game with nine fans in the stands,” he said. “At North Davidson, if you’re there at 5:30, there are already 90 fans in the stands.
“Hopefully, we can present our team as a fun thing to watch and build on what’s already here.”
What is already here? Fleming has no idea, yet.
“It’s exciting coming in and not knowing what the kids are like,” he said. “It’s about building relationships. I want them to work hard and trust me to take them where I want to go. Our goal is like every other team ó we want to win the conference.”
North appears to be behind a lot of programs because Fleming is coming in so late. But he shrugs that off, recalling his first head coaching job at Franklinton.
“I was hired on Aug. 19 and I was the third head coach in three weeks,” he said. “We’re behind some programs. Most started in January. But we’re not that far behind. Football is still blocking and tackling.”
Fleming also knows that North has the athletes to overcome a short preseason. He kept up with the Cavaliers while at North Davidson. Several of Davidson County’s schools are North’s foes in the Central Carolina Conference, so by reading area newspapers, he became familiar with the program.
“I knew the reputation North had,” he said.
Fleming is living between Lexington and Welcome, but he points out it’s just a 14-minute ride to Spencer, adding, “Until we can relocate, it’s definitely driveable.”
He’s eager to teach his flexbone offense. He’s eager to meet with the booster club Monday night.
But more than anything, Tasker Fleming is eager to wear his new colors. If things work out as he envisions, those history-makers like Heggins, Sturgis and Ellis will return to their roots on Friday nights to remember what North Rowan was all about when they played ó and what could be again:
A football program that has other schools green with envy.
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or rgallagher@salisburypostcom.