Editor's Note: Being named 4A East Regional champions and making it to the state championship game for the first time in our school's 110-year history are evidence of the team's hard work, determination, and dedication. Though the final score of the December 14 championship game was 24-21 East Forsyth, it was, without a doubt, a historic season for Gibbons' football program. Congratulations Crusaders!
When the Crusaders ran onto Kenan Stadium’s field recently, they became part of Gibbons’ history. And their season of firsts will be a fitting close to our school’s 110th anniversary year.
The 2019 season was the first time the football team made it to the third round of the state playoffs; the first time it reached the regional finals, and now, the first time it will compete for a state title. The Crusaders will face East Forsyth High School in the 4A bracket at 11 a.m. on Saturday, December 14.
Winning the game would be, no doubt, the ultimate first. (The final score was 24-21 East Forsyth) It is, however, the journey taken to reach this point that tells the real success story.
It started in 1992 with a vision to reintroduce football to the school’s athletic program after a more than 30-year absence. It is a story of challenges and resilience and community and triumph.
“I’ve spent a lot of time reminiscing about how it all started, and I never thought we would be able to have this success,” said Dean Monroe, Director of Athletics Leadership and Legacy. Monroe was instrumental in helping to reinstate football in 1992 when he was the school’s athletic director.
Others involved with the program in the 90s and its earlier (1940s-1960s) incarnation agree. When talking with them, their sense of history, legacy, and pride is apparent in the way they speak of the 2019 team as their own. Supporting this team is a chance for them to celebrate history, football, and their school community all at once.
Just ask Frank Prevo ’57. He played left halfback on the varsity football team when the school was called Cathedral Latin, and the players practiced on a makeshift field of dirt and rock. “We were learning,” Prevo said of his team’s performance. “We lost more games than we won... We always said a prayer on the sidelines; we just needed more prayers.”
When Saturday arrives, Prevo said he would be in Chapel Hill “pulling hard” for the Crusaders, who he has followed religiously for years. “I am excited and filled with pride that our team has made it this far,” he added.
Prevo will not be alone. Many alumni and former coaches, especially those connected with the 1992 season, are also expected to be on hand to cheer on the Crusaders.
One of them will be Kevin Mattocks ’97. The former running back said he waited 27 years for the Crusaders to make a state title game appearance.
Mattocks’ playing days, like Prevo’s, were filled with more losses than wins. It didn’t deter him or his teammates.
“We had an amazing sense of pride” in what was possible, Mattocks said. The team’s mentality was, “let’s prove we can do this thing, prove we can compete and succeed,” he said, adding that “our feeling was always we would win the next game.”
So, how does he feel about the game tomorrow? “We finally made it,” he noted. “The level of expectation we had back then, I see resonating in this team. We were like a family, and I see that in them, too.”
It also will be a memorable game for former coach Larry Clawson, who was part of the parent group that helped reinstate the football program. He coached his son Matt ’92 and now will watch his grandson, Carter Scearce ’22, take to the field tomorrow in Chapel Hill.
“It was a lot of work, and we didn’t have any resources, equipment, or even a practice or home field,” he said of starting the program. “But we thought it was still a good idea.”
Of the team’s ratio of wins to losses, Clawson said: “We were in over our heads, we were a JV team playing a varsity schedule. We just wanted to be competitive and knew that would take years.”
Clawson and his grandson “are over the moon excited about Saturday’s game,” he said. “Yes, I do have a proud streak seeing them play for a state title because I know how it all started and how far we have come.”
No one knows that better than Dean Monroe. “Building a program the right way is a slow process and takes a lot of patience,” he noted. “We all had a vision of what the program would become; these players exceeded our dreams.”
Whichever way the game ends tomorrow, he said, “this team made believers out of all of us and instilled trust that other championship successes are attainable.”
Join us today to see the team make Gibbons history – again!
Please visit the Gibbons online FanGuide for details about Saturday’s game.
In episode 1, hear more from Dean Monroe and Larry Clawson about how the program was restarted in 1992.
In episode 2, listen to head football coach Steven Wright and quarterback Andrew Harvey '20 as the Cardinal Gibbons football program makes history by competing for its first state championship.