Book by former Seventy-First football standout recalls 1986 team and more

By Earl Vaughan Jr.

More than a few people have suggested I should write a book about my experiences covering high school athletics for nearly 50 years.

So far, the muse hasn’t motivated me, but I can at least take credit for being the inspiration of someone who has.

Earlier this year I called former Seventy-First and University of North Carolina at Pembroke standout Alex Gaines to tell him he had been inducted into the Fayetteville Sports Club Hall of Fame. 

Gaines is best remembered in the annals of Seventy-First athletic history as the kicker who made a 19-yard field goal as time expired to give the Falcons a 3-0 win over West Charlotte in the 1986 N.C. High School Athletic Association football championship game.

The game was played at Seventy-First’s Loyd E. Auman Athletic Field and was the final NCHSAA 4-A football title decided on a high school field.

Since that year, all 4-A finals have been played in neutral college stadiums.

Gaines said my phone call stirred memories of his senior season at Seventy-First. It led him to do some research, draw on his memories and write a paperback book about that Seventy-First championship season. Titled “Three Seconds Left,” Gaines self-published the book and made it available for sale at amazon.com.

Part of Gaines’ research involved viewing YouTube videos that were actually taken from a highlight video put together by Falcon head coach Bobby Poss, Larry Chavis, now a cameraman at WTVD and a former Cumberland County Schools staff member, and the late Jack Moch, the public address announcer for the Falcon football team.

The video used highlights from Seventy-First game films and sideline video shot by longtime WRAL cameraman Jay “Jelly Roll” Jennings.

Gaines also got material for his book from Amy Bolton Brown, the unofficial archivist of the 1986 Falcon football team, as well as Jay Goldstein of the Cumberland County Public Library.

An argument can be made that 1986 may have been the greatest year in Fayetteville high school football history. As Gaines notes in the book, four Cumberland County teams, Seventy-First, Terry Sanford, Pine Forest and E.E. Smith, were at one time or another ranked in the top ten in the statewide Associated Press football poll.

“In the 80s, football was king,’’ Gaines said. “There were a lot of great teams.’’

Seventy-First, 14-1, suffered its only loss that year by a 14-13 score at Terry Sanford and ended the season No. 1 in the state and No. 35 nationally according to USA Today.

The book recaps the Falcon season game-by-game and mentions countless players and coaches from the school.

It also includes nuggets about other Fayetteville greats from the day. One was about E.E. Smith quarterback Connell Maynor. Now head coach at Alabama A&M, Maynor was the stunt double for Hollywood star Jamie Foxx in the film “Any Given Sunday.’’

Another told that a rainy night was forecast at Seventy-First the day of the state title game. To protect the field as much as possible, the school borrowed baseball tarpaulins from Tom Austin, the longtime baseball coach at then-Methodist College.

While the book might not be for someone who isn’t a diehard Seventy-First fan, Gaines indicated appealing to the masses wasn’t the reason he wrote it. 

“It’s for those guys who were there and participated and lived it,’’ he said. “A lot of great athletes came out of Fayetteville. I don’t think Fayetteville gets the credit that the town deserves.’’

I couldn’t agree with him more. 

• Former Westover High School state championship girls’ basketball coach Gene Arrington, who also played high school football for the famed Alexandria, Virginia, T.C. Williams  team featured in the hit film “Remember The Titans,’’ will highlight a Zoom teleconference scheduled Thursday, May 27, at 7 p.m.

The event is sponsored by the Cape Fear Chapter of 100 Black Men. 

Arrington is the author of the book, “Rise of the Wolverines,” which shares his personal story along with that of his Westover High School state championship girls team from 2008.

For more information on registering for the Zoom meeting call 910-977-2120 or go to www.100blackmencf.com.

• Several local high school football players were recently named to All-State teams chosen by Friday Nights in Carolina.

Donta Autry and Cedavion Wimbley of South View made the 4-A first team. Jamieson Alston of Seventy-First made the second team.

Making the 3-A first team were Jre Jackson and Kaylon Keys of Terry Sanford. 

Christian “Chop” Deaver of Terry Sanford and Karin Williams of Westover made second team.

Making the 3-AA second team were Jerry Garcia and Jalen Johnson of Gray’s Creek.

• Former E.E. Smith athlete Kendall Macauley was recently named MEAC Softball Rookie of the Year while playing for North Carolina A&T.

Macauley was second team All-MEAC, batting .319 with 22 RBI. She was third in the league in hits and second in RBI. Her batting average against conference teams was .411.