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The weather outside was frightful, but the outcome of the 1967 Eastern 4-A championship game was simply delightful for the Fike High football team and the loyal Cyclones fans who braved a chilly downpour to watch their heroes dismantle Durham.
Fike earned a spot in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association championship game for the first time in a decade with its 13-0 victory — the 11th straight — in its new stadium that earned the moniker, “The Mud Bowl,” for the game, played Friday, Nov. 24, 1967.
As it had nearly all season, the Fike defense did the dirty work — literally in this case — in posting its fourth shutout as the Cyclones limited a powerful Durham offense to 20 measly yards, all on the ground. Meanwhile, senior quarterback Lynn Daniell directed the Fike offense to 188 yards through the muck and connected on a pair of short touchdown passes to senior tight end Bob Johnston — one in the first quarter and one in the fourth.
“It was, needless to say, a great victory,” Fike head coach Henry Trevathan told Wilson Daily Times sports editor David Lamm, “but we still haven’t got time to gloat about the past. There’s one more game to go. ... Then there’ll be plenty of time to celebrate.”
That next game would be against South Mecklenburg for what would be the first of the Cyclones’ three straight state 4-A championships the following Friday in Charlotte. However, this rainy night in Wilson was the Cyclones’ finest moment of the season to date.
“It’s hard to say,” Trevathan said of the defensive effort, led by senior Billy Clark. “We’ve played some mighty good games defensively, you know. How much the wet field helped us stop Durham, I don’t know. I’ll have to admit, though, it was one of our better games, bad weather or not.”
Fike’s defense rose to the occasion early when the Cyclones fumbled the opening kickoff, giving Durham the ball at the Fike 33-yard line. The Bulldogs couldn’t moved the ball and, later in the quarter, fumbled and Cyclones junior linebacker Earl Killebrew recovered at the Durham 14.
Fike gained just six yards on three plays and Trevathan sent senior Harold Wilkerson out to attempt a 23-yard field goal out of the hold of Daniell. However, the Cyclones reached into their bag of tricks as Daniell took the snap and circled to his right before finding Johnston in the end zone for a TD. Wilkerson then booted the extra point and the Cyclones had all the points they would need with 58 seconds left in the first quarter.
Durham’s longest drive of the game came in the second quarter, to the Fike 30, but again the Bulldogs bogged down. Three fumbles killed Durham drives in the second half, including the one that set up Fike’s final TD, a three-yard pass from Daniell to Johnston with 1:38 to play.
The Bulldogs moved the ball 11 yards to the Cyclones’ 30 in the fourth quarter but Clark came up with back-to-back tackles for loss of 21 yards.
It was Fike’s second win of the season against its Eastern 4-A Conference rival, following a 14-6 triumph in week 6 in Fleming Stadium.
“I feel like Wilson’s boys were more ready to play than we were,” Durham head coach Bernie Blaney said graciously. “They didn’t do anything we didn’t expect, but they got the job done. I didn’t think Wilson would run as effectively outside as it did. The game was won and lost in the line, though. This type of game always is.”
Fike totaled 128 rushing yards with Clark churning for 64 on 14 carries while junior Steve Windham had 49 yards on just six carries. Sophomore Carlester Crumpler managed just 11 yards on nine carries before exiting with a rib injury. Daniell connected on 6-of-13 attempts for 60 yards.
When the game ended, Lamm reported, many of the some 4,000 fans in attendance raced onto the field to hug the Fike players.