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Even with state 4-A championships from the previous two seasons and nine victories in the 1969 regular season to their credit, the Fike High Cyclones had to fight for their lives against E.E. Smith High of Fayetteville in the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4-A playoffs.
The Cyclones needed 13 points in the fourth quarter to rally for a 27-20 victory, their narrowest win of the season. But survive Fike did Friday, Nov. 14, 1969, at Terry Sanford High Stadium in Fayetteville, earning the Cyclones a home game against another Smith High, this one from Greensboro, in the 4-A semifinals the following week.
Senior Chip Gibbons made two key plays for the Cyclones in the fourth quarter. He snared a 38-yard pass from quarterback George Wilkerson to put Fike on the Smith 9-yard line with 2:31 to play in the game. That set up a 3-yard touchdown run by star senior fullback Carlester Crumpler for the winning score.
However, the Golden Bulls, who went blow-for-blow with the mighty Cyclones, weren’t done. Smith moved the ball down to the Fike 25-yard line with less than 30 seconds to play when Gibbons picked off Bulls quarterback Charlie Baggett to end the final threat.
Crumpler was brilliant once more, rushing for 142 yards on 23 carries, including an 11-yard TD run in the first quarter to give Fike the early 6-0 lead.However, that wouldn’t last as Smith answered back with the first of tailback Thaddeus Wright’s three TD runs. His 11-yard scoring jaunt, part of his 133 rushing yards on the night, and Baggett’s extra-point kick gave Smith a 7-6 lead after one quarter.
Ricky Barnes’ 9-yard run and Crumpler’s two-point conversion run put Fike back in front in the second quarter but Wright answered with a 9-yard TD run of his own to tie the score at 14-14 going into halftime.
The Cyclones dodged a bullet just before halftime when they fumbled the kickoff and Smith took over at the Fike 21, but couldn’t put the ball in the end zone.
Smith took the lead again as Wright’s 1-yard scoring dive ended a drive that saw him carry the ball 10 straight plays. The PAT kick was off and Smith settled for a 20-14 lead after three quarters of play in Fayetteville.
The lead didn’t last long however, as Fike junior Willie Williams bulled his way into the end zone from two yards out less than two minutes into the fourth quarter. But the Cyclones missed the extra-point kick again, leaving the score tied at 20-20.
Fike was able to mount one last scoring drive, thanks to Wilkerson, Gibbons, Williams and Crumpler, and then held the Golden Bulls at bay for its 16th straight victory. Wilkerson had one of his best passing nights, completing 7-of-11 passes for 133 yards. Gibbons snared three passes for 89 yards while Williams caught two for 31.
Leading Fike’s defensive effort were Clark Davis, Steve Coggins, Gibbons, Wilkerson, Crumpler and Barnes.