Prep Football: Fleming resigns at North Rowan
By Ronnie Gallagher
SPENCER — Tasker Fleming attended North Rowan’s basketball doubleheader on Friday night and won the 50-50 drawing.
You could say he took the money and ran.
Just kidding. But he walked out carrying the green at the same time he was leaving the green of North Rowan coaching behind. After four years as head football coach of the Cavaliers, Fleming has resigned his post. He will remain as a math teacher.
His record was 16-31.
“We had some good times,” said Fleming, who started his head coaching career in 1986. “It takes a lot of energy to come from where we were when I came in to where we are now.”
Athletics director Bryan Mills wishes Fleming well, adding the search for a new coach has begun. North is advertising the position.
“As all our hires have been, we’re going to get the best person for the job — just like we did in wrestling and basketball,” Mills said, referring to coaches Tim Pittman and Andrew Mitchell. “We owe that to the community and the athletes. We want to do it as soon as possible.”
Fleming knew he had quite a challenge ahead of him when he took over. The football program was not fulfilling the goals the people in Spencer wanted when Avery Cutshaw was let go in 2008. Fleming, whose speciality was turning around programs, replaced him.
It didn’t happen overnight. His first team was 1-10, that coming on a forfeit. But Fleming was facing an uphill battle. He inherited a team that had lost 17 players to academic failure, 13 to graduation and two to transfer. He barely had over 20 players, most of them young and inexperienced.
“My varsity was a jayvee team that first year,” Fleming admitted.
By the time he left, North lost only one to grades.
Fleming has a Yadkin Valley Conference championship to his credit. The Cavs won it in 2010, the same year he was named YVC Coach of the Year.
The Cavaliers are also winning at the middle school and jayvee levels. This past season, the jayvees were undefeated in winning the Yadkin Valley Conference title.
“I’m proud of that,” Fleming said. “We’ve made strides. The jayvees know how to win.”
From the start, Fleming raised money to take kids to camps, like Duke. But the main thing he had to work on was the mentality — making sure his players realized they could win in football just like they did in basketball or track.
The turning point, in Fleming’s opinion, came in 2009 when the Cavs went to South Stanly. They had been outscored 119-12 in four nonconference contests going into YVC action and were down 14-0 to the Rebel Bulls at halftime. But Fleming made the right call, changing to an I-formation. North came out on top, 16-14. The Cavaliers won five of their next six, earning a berth in the 1AA playoffs, where they lost at Murphy.
“Beating South Stanly was probably the one I enjoyed the most,” Fleming smiled. “We were 5-2 in the conference after starting 0-4.”
In fact, after that early-season drought, the Cavs scored 89 points in the next two games after South Stanly. That’s when Fleming could see the team chemistry evolving and the players realizing how much fun it was to win.
In 2010, North won the outright YVC title. The Cavaliers had to beat West Montgomery for the crown, which it did 26-20 on Pierre Givens’ late kickoff return for a score.
Fleming was expecting bigger and better things this past season but finished 3-4 in the YVC and 4-8 overall.
He wishes he could have duplicated what he did at other schools. Here’s a few examples:
• When he became head coach at Franklinton in 1986, he took a program from two wins to an 8-3 playoff contender.
• In 2003, he took a Saint Paul’s team from two wins to 10.
• In 2005, he led Northern Vance, a 16th playoff seed, to a win over the top seed.
“I have enjoyed the challenge of building programs,” he said.
At North, he’ll always cherish the relationships with his players.
“Being around Javon Hargrave was a lot of fun,” Fleming said of the former star defensive lineman who signed last season with South Carolina State. “He’s a great kid. After his redshirt year is over, he’s going to have a fine college career.”
Fleming didn’t rule out coaching again if the opportunity presented itself. But he would be OK with retiring as a math teacher at North.
“I’m proud of what I do in the classroom,” he said.
Fleming will have fond memories of coaching football at North Rowan.
“I look at where it was and where it is and I’m proud of the kids,” he said. “Hopefully, I left them better off than when I arrived.”