Sports obituary: Barringer led great South defense

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 10, 2023

Jeff Barringer, South Rowan defensive end.


By Mike London

CHINA GROVE — South Rowan’s 1981 defense was one of the best in the school’s football history.

In a 10-week stretch, the Raiders allowed a total of 34 points and shut out five teams. South’s defense produced a scoreless month — consecutive shutouts against West Rowan, Sun Valley, East Rowan and Monroe.

It was an era when South had exceptional linebackers, defensive backs and linemen, but the most special player on the defensive side of the ball was 6-foot-3, 205-pound defensive end Jeff Barringer.

Barringer died on Aug. 27. He had been living in Cave Springs, Ark. A 1982 graduate of South and a 1986 graduate of Duke University, he was 59.

Barringer, the son of Salisbury Post photographer James Paul Barringer and Barbara Jackson Barringer, played two varsity baseball seasons for South and was good in basketball. He was a team captain in hoops and played three varsity seasons on the hardwood. He was the Raiders’ leading scorer as a senior for coach Larry Deal.

He was the Rowan County Male Athlete of the Year for the 1981-82 school year.

While he had success in basketball and baseball, it was on the football field where Barringer’s combination of energy, athleticism, intelligence and leadership stood out most.

Barringer was an all-county football player in 1980 for a a team that won a conference title.

Then everything came together for him and the South defense when he was a senior in 1981.

“Jeff was a great defensive end and leader of the team for multiple years,” former South and Catawba linebacker Joe Crapster said. “He was always ready for battle on Friday nights. He was always prepared and he was a great teammate. I loved playing with him.”

South lost 17-7 to North Rowan on opening night of the 1981 season, but wouldn’t allow another long scoring drive the rest of the year.

South’s defense wasn’t all that big, but the Raiders were physical and they always were well prepared by coordinator Steve Beaver and the defensive staff.  The defense was aided greatly by a conservative, ball-control offense spearheaded by workhorse running back Michael Ramseur. South quarterback Doug Patterson ran the show and South executed so well in the running game that Patterson only had to throw 20 passes the entire regular season.

Realignment brought South’s talented neighbor, A.L. Brown, down from 4A to 3A for that 1981 season. The Wonders had beaten South 35-0 in 1980. The main obstacles to South repeating as South Piedmont Conference champs were going to be the Wonders, Concord and Central Cabarrus.

In South’s 23-6 win against Concord and the 20-8 victory against A.L. Brown that came three weeks later, the first touchdown of both games was scored by South’s defense. To be more specific, those touchdowns were scored by Barringer. In both of those marquee games, he scooped fumbles and took the ball all the way.

“We played a 5-2 defense, but it was like today’s 3-4,” South defensive tackle Chris Corriher explained. “Our  linebackers Donny Spainhour and Joe Crapster were really good, and Jeff made all kinds of big plays.”

Barringer also scored on blocked punt that season.

Corriher recalls getting a pick-6 against Northwest Cabarrus shortly before halftime. Barringer’s pressure caused the quarterback to throw that interception under duress.

Accolades piled up for Barringer after South ran the table in the SPC and finished the 1981 season with a 10-2 record.

He became the second South Rowan player to be named to the All-State team. He was the voted Rowan County Defensive Player of the Year, getting five of the seven votes.

He was chosen to play in the East-West All-Star Game.

Besides being an exceptional football player, Barringer was ranked 16th academically in a class of 296 students, so he was recruited by a number of major schools.

He chose the Duke Blue Devils. Duke wasn’t a power, but it had a winning football season in 1981 for head coach Red Wilson and offered an opportunity to play early in addition to strong academics.

Barringer held his own as a backup defensive end in the ACC as a true freshman in 1982. His mustache had thickened, but he had the same haircut. He had been able to add a few pounds to 210.

He earned a letter, made one sack and was credited with eight tackles, mostly on special teams. Duke went 6-5 and finished the season with a big win against rival UNC.

Steve Sloan was hired to replace Wilson in December 1982.

Barringer made an impression on Sloan with a huge 1983 spring game, but his role was about the same as a sophomore. He made six tackles and earned his second letter.

An injury derailed Barringer’s football career after that, but he continued to excel academically. He made the Dean’s List and graduated from Duke with a degree in economics.

He was a pharmaceutical representative for most of his working career. He was an outdoorsman and he loved his family and the Blue Devils.

“A lot of respect for Jeff on an off the field,” Crapster said. “We lost a great person.”

Barringer is survived by his mother, his wife (Claudia) and two children (Conner and Madison).

Memorials in Barringer’s honor may be made to the Glioblastoma Foundation in Durham.

A celebration of Barringer’s life is planned for Tuesday, Sept. 12, from 6-8 p.m. at Powles Staton Funeral Home in Rockwell.