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Ex-Wolfpacker Davenport goes home to call title game


By Earl Vaughan Jr.

Former Pine Forest football star Charles Davenport has one of Cumberland County’s finest resumes in the sport.

After an outstanding career with the Trojans, he earned All-ACC recognition as a wide receiver for North Carolina State. He spent three seasons with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers before returning to Fayetteville to try his hand at coaching.

Four years ago, his career took an unexpected turn as he found himself too busy with full-time work to spend time coaching, so he became a high school football official.

Although he’s been at it for only briefly, he’s already proven himself as one of the best officials in the business.

He will be rewarded tonight as he’ll join a crew of fellow officials from the Southeastern Athletic Officials Association and head back to the Raleigh stadium where he was a college star, N.C. State’s Carter-Finley.

Once there, he will officiate tonight’s 3-A state title game between Charlotte Catholic and Havelock at 7 p.m.

As regional supervisor of the SAOA officials, Neil Buie is called on to provide an officiating crew for one of this year’s eight state football championship games.

The crew Buie chose included Davenport as umpire, along with referee Richard Chadwell, linesman Ryan Reis, line judge Darren Deese, side judge Leroy Thompson, field judge Errol Daniels and back judge Steve Honrine.

While Buie said there is no rule about years of experience before an official can call the finals, he uses three years as a benchmark. Other factors in choosing championship officials include rulebook test scores, seniority and the results of observations and evaluations by Buie and other veteran officials.

Buie said one of Davenport’s biggest assets is knowledge of the game and awareness of situational football, being able to anticipate plays while, at the same time, not anticipating the results.

Because of his size and build, Davenport is also an imposing presence on the field. “He’s good to work with,’’ Buie said. “All my officials enjoy working with Charles.’’

Davenport said his memories of his high school career are still strong, and one of the reasons he got into officiating was to give young people the same chance to compete that he had.

“For a lot of these young people, this is probably going to be the last opportunity they get to be on an organized team,’’ he said. “It motivated me to make sure they get a good experience.’’

He said returning to his old college home at Carter-Finley Stadium will be special, but he wants to share the experience with the players he’ll be working with tonight.

“I just really want to give my best effort,’’ Davenport said. “I want to do a good job for the seniors on both of those teams.

“I don’t want anybody to feel shortchanged about what we were able to do.’’