Commitment to greatness

Former players seek to honor Trevathan with monument, scholarship

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Even though it happened five decades ago, Fike High’s run of three straight state 4-A football championships is still considered not only just the greatest accomplishment in the school’s athletic history but also in all of Wilson. 

Now a group of his former players are spearheading an effort to create a way to honor Henry Trevathan, the head coach of all three of those Cyclones championship teams (1967, 1968, 1969). Trevathan, the Fike head coach from 1964 to 1969, was a charter member of the Fike High Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000 but there is no other on-campus recognition for the 90-year-old, who is a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. The football stadium at Fike is named for C.H. “Buddy” Bedgood, who was the driving force in its construction in 1967 and was a long-time supporter of Fike athletics until his death in 2002. The football field itself is named for Dr. Tyson Jennette, who volunteered his services as the team physician for several decades.

“He was the architect. You’ve got to give him credit for being the architect. He was,” said Gary Farmer, a player on Trevathan’s first Fike team. “I’m not unhappy that Bedgood’s got a great, big stadium named for him. I’m not unhappy that Tyson Jennette’s got a field. Somewhere you’ve got to have a place for Trevathan and those three championship teams.”

The plan calls for a stone and bronze monument featuring Trevathan’s likeness to be erected near the stadium’s concession stand as well as a scholarship fund to be established in Trevathan’s name that will go to one or more Fike student-athletes every year.

The monument, with a granite base measuring 3 by 5 feet and with a bronze relief likeness of Trevathan, will be dedicated at Fike’s first home game of the 2019 season — Sept. 6, the first Friday after Labor Day. Farmer said a permanent security camera will be trained on the monument to help prevent potential vandalism.

The scholarship fund will be administered through the North Carolina Community Foundation, said Stuart Walston, a starting inside linebacker on the 1968 and 1969 Cyclones title teams

Also in the works is a marker to be placed near the stadium, signifying the Fike’s achievement as the first high school team to win three straight state 4-A football championships. Perry Morrison of the Wilson County Historical Society confirmed that an application for the marker is in place.

“It was a magical time in this town and, for everybody, that was the topic of conversation,” Farmer said. “Now you talk about water-cooler conversations and that wasn’t a water-cooler conversation, you lived and died by what happened on Friday night.”

The era, chronicled by Russell Rawlings in his seminal 2000 book, “Cyclone Country: The time, the town, the team,” was a special one in Wilson history, said Walston.

“One of the best things that I remember about that was the community and really the support that the entire community gave to the football team,” Walston said. “Yes, we were playing for ourselves. We were playing for our teammates. We were playing for our coaches. But we were playing for Wilson — Wilson and Wilson County. I know that back then it was a city school system but we were playing for Wilson County. We felt a strong bond with the support that the whole community gave.”

It’s that bond that Walston and Farmer hope will be apparent today as they asking for contributions for the monument, historical marker and scholarship fund. 

“It was the first time I had gotten involved in something bigger than myself and I think that was true for a lot of people,” Farmer said. “So we’re asking people to contribute if it touched your life, if you were a vendor, cheerleaders — everybody — if you want to contribute to this, we welcome it with open arms. Just be a part of this. This is bigger than just a monument.”

The accounting firm of Anthony and Tabb, P.A., will collect donations for all three projects.

While the Cyclones championship run was indeed a community effort, Trevathan was the spark that made it happen. He was part of two state championship teams as an assistant coach at Rocky Mount before arriving at Fike in 1964. The Cyclones, who shared the state 3-A title in 1957 under head coach Paul Marklin after tying Winston-Salem Reynolds in the championship game, had fallen on hard times, going 2-28 in Marklin’s last three seasons. Trevathan’s first three seasons were no cakewalk either as Fike went 3-7, 4-5-1 and 3-7.

But change was in the air, recalled Phil Lamm, a pivotal player on the ’68 and ’69 championship teams before playing at the University of North Carolina.

“I can remember even though there were some records that weren’t the best, you could just see that stuff was changing with the electricity in the crowd,” Lamm said. “You just knew that things were going to get a lot better, even though the record didn’t show it.”

Walston, who was at Charles L. Coon Junior High at the time, remembered when he first realized the change that Wilson high school football was undergoing. 

“We would get on a bus for track practice and go over to Fike and you start running around the track and, before you know it, you’re actually out on the field doing fourth-quarter drills,” Walston said with a laugh. “You realize that this is not just track practice! Track practice really became an early version of spring football practice. They used to take us on the “Blue Goose” over to Fike to do track, but we were out there on the field doing fourth-quarter drills. So you start realizing there was something going on at that point.”

What was going on wasn’t just football, but a lifelong lesson for the players and many of the fans who hitched themselves to Trevathan’s vision.

“Preparation — that’s what they taught us,” Walston said. “If you’re prepared and you’re committed, you’re going to achieve great things.”