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In typical fashion, the 1968 Fike High football team showed its championship colors with a stirring second-half rally to defeat Gastonia Ashley 21-7 in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4-A title tilt played here Nov. 29, 1968 before a crowd of some 8,000.
The Cyclones, in winning the second of their three straight state 4-A championships, rallied from a 7-0 deficit at Cyclone Country Stadium, the only time a state championship game was played there. The victory was Fike’s 11th in 13 games and seventh straight.
With star junior tailback Carlester Crumpler still feeling the effects of an ankle injury, the Cyclones turned to senior fullback Zeke Church and its vaunted defense. Church ran for 125 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries and the Cyclones defense — led by Stuart Walston, Dan Killebrew, Hart Wiggins, Chip Gibbons, Wayne Musselwhite, Earl Killebrew, Kenny Pridgen, Phil Lamm, Larry Barnes, Jimmy Elliott and Vernon Wall — simply shut down the Green Wave in the second half. Fike held Gastonia to a mere five rushing yards after halftime.
“We’ve won more games in the second half than I can think of,” Fike head coach Henry Trevathan told Wilson Daily Times sports editor Cliff Turner. “But it sure was good to see the boys come back and play hard. We gave the ball more to Zeke in this game that we have the whole season. He simply did a great job.”
Church’s output was necessary because Crumpler was still sidelined from an ankle injury he suffered earlier in the playoffs. He played in just one series in the second half, losing a yard on his only carry and catching one pass that resulted in a 10-yard loss.
No problem because Church and fellow seniors John Wooten, the quarterback, and Steve Windham, who filled in at tailback, were up to the challenge. But the first half belonged to both defenses. Gastonia finally broke through early in the second quarter when fullback Glenn Wells took a handoff from Spurgeon Mackie and scored on a 2-yard run for the Green Wave’s only TD.
Fike finally retaliated in the third quarter on a 74-yard drive that featured a 23-yard reception by junior Phil Lamm, a 12-yard scramble by Wooten and two 10-yard runs by Church. Wooten finished the job with a 7-yard TD run and Earl Killebrew booted the first of his three extra-points.
The Cyclones finally took the lead in the fourth quarter on Pridgen’s 29-yard TD reception. Lamm’s interception of a Mackie pass set up Fike’s final score, a 12-yard run by Church.
Fike’s defense did the job the rest of the way as Mackie finished 3 of 12 for 26 yards and the Green Wave managed just 165 rushing yards, all but 5 of that in the first half.
After the game, Windham made sure Turner of the Daily Times remembered his midseason prediction after Fike defeated Fayetteville 14-0.
“Don’t print this,” Windham said after the Fayetteville game, “but we are going to win the state championship again.”
Windham found Turner on the field before it was enveloped by joyful Cyclones fans and blared out, “I told, I told you, didn’t I?”
The cries of the Fike fans filled the chilly air as the Cyclones dynasty was taking shape.
“We’re No. 1! We’re No. 1!”