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E.E. Smith head football coach steps down, athletic director at Pine Forest pivots to coaching

Plus: Ability Counts award, congratulations to local athletes and information about Fayetteville Sports Club Hall of Fame banquet

E.E. Smith head football coach Antonio Wallace announced on social media late Wednesday that he is stepping down after one season at the school. 
Wallace began by thanking the Smith community for embracing him as family. 
"To my players, thank you for having the desire to be coached, shaped and prepared for life," he said. “With that being said, after thoughtful consideration, my family and I have chosen to pursue new coaching opportunities. Forever Bull Pride."
Wallace was 3-7 in his lone year at Smith. His wins were over Douglas Byrd, Western Harnett and Westover, the Westover win coming in the final game of the regular season. Smith did not qualify for the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs.
Lonnie Cox, athletic director at Pine Forest High School, also announced on social media that he’s leaving his post to return to his first love, coaching football.
Cox expressed his thanks to Pine Forest principal Dr. Juelle McDonald and Cumberland County Schools Student Activities Director David Culbreth for giving him the chance to be an athletic director, as well as to the coaches and school family at Pine Forest.
“You all treated me as family from day one and I’ll be eternally grateful for that,’’ he said. “Anybody who truly knows me knows that my true love is on the football field, and I plan on getting back to doing what I love most and with a group of men who I am lucky enough to call my ‘true brothers.’"
Cox also said he has been suffering health problems and plans to take some time off to deal with those.
When I was in high school, trying to supplement my meager income from being a flunky in the Salisbury-Rowan Hospital kitchen, I found a way to earn extra bucks.
Writing contests.
I entered more than a few as my journalism interest grew, and one where I had a memorable experience was the Ability Counts essay contest. It was statewide, and the topic was how to promote the hiring of the disabled.
I enlisted the aid of a dear family friend, the late Joyce Brown, who helped me connect with various personnel managers at local businesses to talk about the job the state was doing to promote the hiring of the disabled.
Whatever I said must have pleased someone because I wound up finishing in the top four and traveling to Raleigh to be honored by Gov. Bob Scott. Jim Graham, who was N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture, also stopped by the ceremony since he was a member of my dad’s church near Cleveland, North Carolina, and grew up down the street from our house.
Now, more than 50 years after that experience, I have a unique appreciation for those words I wrote long ago. I’m still writing thanks to CityView, but I’m also a living example of what I wrote about a lifetime ago. I’m disabled and spend a good portion of my days in a wheelchair.
But I still have a passion for high school sports, and I want to do everything I can to promote the coaches and athletes in Fayetteville and Cumberland County who actually make it happen.
Looking back, I now appreciate the significance of those words, ability counts.
Years ago, as a joke, I posed in a Superman costume, leaping off an office desk and being captured on film hanging in midair. My late dear friend Steve Aldridge snapped the picture.
I’m no longer leaping buildings in a single bound. Not even close. But I have a working mind, fingers still nimble at a keyboard, and with the modern reach provided by a smartphone, streaming TV and social media, I can communicate with anybody, anywhere, watch games and try to tell as many stories as I can.
I want to take a moment to thank my bosses at CityView, Tony Chavonne, Bill Horner III and Maydha Devarajan, for allowing me to continue doing what I love.
And I want to thank you, the readers, for perusing my work and sharing it with others.
I long ago adopted the favorite saying of the great D.T. Carter, longtime football coach and athletic director at E.E. Smith High School, who no matter how tough a day was, reminded me the sun is going to rise tomorrow. 
And with each sunrise, I’m ready to tackle the new day with vigor and enthusiasm. I hope you’ll join me.
Congratulations to the following local athletes who were named to the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association All-State basketball team.
  • Boys’ 2-A basketball - Josaiah Sanders, Berean Baptist; Kenny Vera, Northwood Temple Academy; Justin Caldwell, Trinity Christian School.
  • Girls’ 2-A basketball - Riley Duchon, Fayetteville Academy; Allison Lett, Freedom Christian; Saniyah McIntyre, Trinity Christian School.
Time is running out to purchase tickets for this year’s Fayetteville Sports Club Hall of Fame banquet.
The banquet is scheduled at 6 p.m. Friday, March 8, at the Tony Rand Student Center Multipurpose Room on the campus of Fayetteville Tech. Tickets are $65 per person. A group ticket is also available for children.
To purchase tickets call Ashley Petroski at 910-323-9195 or email ashley@npfp.com.
Scheduled for induction are former South View girls’ basketball coach Brent Barker, E.E. Smith and Wake Forest football great Aaron Curry, Jack Britt and Appalachian State football standout Marques Murrell, former Terry Sanford and Campbell University basketball star Tammy Brown Tew and the late Ray Williams, a baseball and football standout at Reid Ross and Clemson.
Reach Earl Vauaghn by email here, or on X (formerly known as Twitter) @EarlVaughanJr

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Antonio Wallace, E.E. Smith head football coach, Lonnie Cox, Pine Forest High School athletic director, Writing contests, Ability Counts essay contest, Disability advocacy, High school sports passion, Fayetteville sports coverage. D.T. Carter, N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association, All-State basketball team, Fayetteville Sports Club Hall of Fame, Brent Barker, Aaron Curry, Marques Murrell, Tammy Brown Tew, Ray Williams, Hall of Fame banquet