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Douglas Byrd’s 1972 football squad celebrates 50th anniversary of premiere season

Former players celebrate revered coach, connect with current student athletes


They were pulled together from two dramatically different schools, a relatively small neighborhood group that was closing its doors and a mega-school with a rich athletic history that was having a hunk of its student-athletes moved into an unknown situation.

That was the circumstance that led to the birth of Douglas Byrd High School back in 1972 when the boys from Massey Hill and Seventy-First united to make history. 

Uniting under their much-beloved head coach, Maurice Chapman from Massey Hill, they would make history, coming together to earn Douglas Byrd the Pioneer Conference 3-A football title in its first year of existence.

Tony Chavonne, publisher of CityView Media, decided to reach out to his teammates from that 1972 squad to organize a 50th anniversary reunion. The group finally gathered on the Byrd campus last week.

Chavonne said it took about six months to pull it all together. Despite a downpour that forced postponement of the Purnell Swett at Douglas Byrd football game, the group gathered in the school cafeteria to reminisce and relive the magic of their first season as a football team.

Chavonne gave a lot of credit to current Douglas Byrd principal Kenneth Williams, who is a former Byrd coach and threw his full support behind the project.

Many of the former players lived in Fayetteville or North Carolina, Chavonne said. The longest distance anyone traveled to attend was from Ohio.

Chavonne said two things dominated the evening: memories of their old coach and the chance to reconnect with the locker room and the current players on the team.

The feelings expressed for Chapman were no surprise to Chavonne.

“Many of those guys were only exposed to him for one year,” he said. “There was a lot of talk about him and his influence on all of our lives. I anticipated that because he was a powerful personality.”

But the return to the locker room and meeting the current Byrd players was the thing that took Chavonne by surprise.

“You don’t know what it means for these young kids to see somebody that cares,” Chavonne said. “The Byrd today players saw us coming together, hugging each other, … after not seeing each other for 50 years. It was very powerful, very emotional.’’

A pair of Chavonne’s Eagle teammates from 1972, defensive end Danny Roseborough and offensive and defensive lineman Mike McCaskill, agreed with the feelings expressed by Chavonne, while sharing memories of what it was like during their conference championship run.

Roseborough, who was one of the former Seventy-First players, talked about how difficult it was for the former Falcons to enter a new school just two years removed from Seventy-First winning the Eastern 3-A championship under legendary coach Jim Boyette.

Roseborough said he even tried to return to Seventy-First after being assigned to Byrd, but Boyette told him he couldn’t.

“We all wanted to go to Seventy-First,” he said.

Roseborough credited Chapman for pulling the Eagles together. Both he and McCaskill used the same words to describe their former coach: Old school.

“It kind of took me back to my military days, when you go to basic training,” Roseborough said. “They tear everybody down to the same place and build them back up again. That was what Coach Chapman did. He built something there at Douglas Byrd.”

Roseborough said the Eagles were united because of the sense of family Chapman was able to create.

His skillful building of the team may have been perfectly illustrated by how he handled the situation of inheriting two gifted quarterbacks, Solomon Everett of Massey Hill and Horace Whitaker of Douglas Byrd.

Chapman kept Everett as quarterback and converted Whitaker into the team’s star running back. Whitaker would go on to play at North Carolina State under Lou Holtz.

“To do that and have everybody accept it was great,” Roseborough said.

He added it reminded him of what happened in the hit film “Remember the Titans” starring Denzel Washington, in which players from predominantly Black and white high schools were merged into one team.

Like Chavonne, the chance to meet the current Byrd team had a powerful impact on Roseborough, actually sharing with the players what it takes to make a team.

“It made me feel real good about what they are trying to do there at Byrd and what my guys, the guys I played with, are trying to do to help them,” he said.

McCaskill said the team experience was somewhat different for the players coming from Massey Hill. They had not enjoyed the kind of success Seventy-First had, not because Chapman wasn’t a good coach, but because Massey Hill was a much smaller school and numbers were always a problem for Chapman when he was there.

The addition of the players from Seventy-First suddenly gave him a full roster, and he proved he had the ability to field a winner by earning the conference title in the school’s first season.

“From the start, we realized there were a lot of great athletes that were going to be on that team,” McCaskill said. “We had some good coaching. It was a special group, a special year.”

If there was a disappointing note, it was the way the season ended. Back in those days, the state football playoffs weren’t seeded, and teams were matched in the first round of the playoffs largely based on geography and not because of seeding or overall record.

Unfortunately for Byrd, it was paired with what at the time was one of the top programs in the state, Sanford Central, coached by hall-of-famer Paul Gay.

The Eagles were beaten in the first round by Sanford, 13-12. Sanford would go on to tie Waynesville Tuscola 14-14 in the state 3-A championship game.

“We really think we blew an opportunity to be state champions,” McCaskill said. “I think we all finished with disappointment that year.

“It was a special group, a special year. Nobody expected us to do what we did that first year.”

McCaskill said he has carried lessons learned from that season and playing for Chapman throughout his life.

“It was hard-nosed, old-school football that he tried to impart to us,” he said, “giving everything you can while you are on that field. Ultimately the payoff would come if that was what you did. If you developed yourself and listened to them. They would develop us to be better players.”

He looked back at the accomplishments of some of his classmates, noting two had earned doctorates, several served in the military and some became teachers.

McCaskill said the former Eagles used the tools and techniques they learned from Chapman, with an emphasis on the word teamwork.

“To build something together, that was the message that struck me,” he said.

They tried to share the same message with the Eagles of 2023.

“When you walk out on that field on the last day, these people will continue to be your teammates for life,” he said.

Chapman went on from that first year to plant a seed that would eventually grow Douglas Byrd into one of the storied football programs in the state. 

In 1975, he was chosen as an assistant coach for the annual East-West All-Star football game in Greensboro. 

When selecting the team, he persuaded the East head coach to choose a player from Seventy-First named Emanuel North. 

North had been injured much of the year and didn't play a lot, but Chapman knew he was a major talent who could help the East team. 

North played defensive back, and in the game’s closing minutes he tackled future N.C. State star Rickey Adams at the goal line to preserve a 14-8 East victory. 

The head coach thanked Chapman and later joined Chapman on the Byrd faculty after Chapman had retired as football coach. 

You may remember his name. It was Bob Paroli of Wilson Fike, who would lead Byrd to five 4-A Eastern football titles and set a state record for career coaching wins. 

Follow Earl Vaughan Jr. on X (Twitter) @EarlVaughanJr.

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Fayetteville, Cumberland County, Douglas Byrd, sports, football