Prep Sports: Salisbury honors 11 Legends

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 26, 2012

By Mike London
SALISBURY — Salisbury High never does things in a small way.
It’s going to be hard for any future visitors to miss the sprawling 4×50-foot red-and-gold sign on the fence behind the south end zone at Ludwig Stadium that reads “Salisbury Coaching Legends.”
Almost equally visible are the names on the 11 individual signs of the legends themselves that were unveiled on Tuesday. They appear to be 2×10.
“You can see ’em from the other end of the stadium,” said pleased Windsor Eagle, who may be retiring as principal but still took command of Tuesday’s festivities.
Even retired legends who have won multiple state championships say “Yes, sir” to Eagle, who handed the coaches their marching orders for the night’s activities while they were gathered in the library for conversation and light refreshment.
“He was like a principal calling a teacher’s meeting,” joked legend Pete Stout.
With Eagle orchestrating, there’s a plan for everything. The 11 honorees’ signs were placed in chronological order by birth year:
Spencer Lancaster-Bill Ludwig-Jack Turney-Bob Pharr-Pete Stout-Charles Hellard-Carolyn Murray-Aaron Neely-Sam Gealy-Bill Lee-Tom Sexton.
When it came time for the legends to provide short acceptance speeches, chronology went out the window, however. Now they took their turns alphabetically — from Gealy to Turney.
Turney, Ludwig and Lancaster are deceased.
Greg Turney and Tom Ludwig accepted plaques on behalf of their families.
Lancaster’s grandson, Fredrick Evans, a former Salisbury quarterback, accepted for his family, which included all three of Lancaster’s daughters.
Festivities included a rendering of the national anthem by big-voiced singer Neal Wilkinson. There were brief speeches and a film tribute and finally a trip to the football field. The legends traveled to the stadium in style — by trolley.
Salisbury’s decision to honor coaching legends was Eagle’s brainstorm.
Eagle explained that while the school has hung countless banners for titles in myriad sports and celebrated the football championship teams from Price, Boyden and Salisbury last fall, it had never adequately recognized the coaches who guided those mighty teams.
“We’ve had exciting ceremonies here that filled us with pride, but there’s never been any long-lasting commemoration of the coaches — until now,” he said.
While 11 seemed an appropriate number of signs to be displayed in a football stadium, AD Joe Pinyan said it’s only a beginning.
“There’s probably 11 more that are deserving, and we’ll honor more in the future,” he said. “But these 11 are 11 real good ones.”
Hellard’s long career may have been the most remarkable of all. He played for one legend (Ludwig) and worked with eight others. He was a basketball assistant 18 years, a football assistant 26 years and was head coach in four different sports.
Salisbury is known for excellence in a wide range of sports, and the 11 legends impacted sports well beyond the big three of baseball, football and basketball.
Stout and Neely, a 14-time conference coach of the year, guided track champions. Hellard coached cross country champions. Lee and Murray won tennis titles.
Pharr coached golf champions. Turney’s wrestling teams won 66 straight. Sexton posted overwhelming records in soccer and swimming. Hellard and Murray coached softball. Lee coached volleyball.
Gealy always will be remembered for the basketball team’s 37-game winning streak and 2A state title, but he also coached four state championship golf teams.
Ludwig molded a generation of young men and won large-school football state titles in 1955 and 1957.
Stout’s football teams were 83-20-10 in 10 years with two WNCHSAA football championships and a co-title.
Pharr’s basketball teams were 252-100 in 14 seasons, and one of those 252 was a win against David Thompson’s unbeaten Crest team for the 1971 WNCHSAA title. That was arguable the greatest victory ever by a local squad in any sport.
Then there’s Lancaster, whose achievements —athletically and academically — at J.C. Price, Salisbury’s black school during segregation, are almost mythical.
His 1940 Red Devils not only went undefeated —they didn’t allow a single point.
In 1952 when Price beat Tarboro Patillo 13-7 in the cold for the 2A state title for black schools, they played at Boyden, on the same field where 11 legends were honored last night.
In 1952, Price and Boyden stood barely a half-mile apart — and yet a world apart. Now they’re winning championships together as Salisbury High, and that means a great deal to Lancaster’s grandson.
“That he’s being honored tonight is so important to me,” Evans said. “It’s important that people never forget Price. It’s important to keep the memory alive.”