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This Black Friday event is extra special

South Point High art class students created banners for the Black Friday event paying honor to the schools that would make up the student body in the late 1960s. This one shows Belmont High “Cardinals”. Among the artists that did the work are from left- Jessica Airhart, Wendell Pacheco Miron, Grace Deason, Emma Orraca.

By Alan Hodge

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The annual “Black Friday” football game to be held on Oct. 4 between East Gaston and South Point high schools is always a big one, and this year will be even bigger due to the fact that several special recognitions are planned as part of the evening.

Folks, schools, and teams that will get a  nod include -the class of 1969- the last class to attend the old BHS and graduate from the new South Point school, the 1979 State Championship team of Coach Jim Biggerstaff that included current Carolina Panther DB coach Perry Fewell, and representatives/ graduates from the old Reid High School Rams (teams, coaches, homecoming queens, faculty) prior to integration.

The Class of 69 had another distinction. It was heavily involved in efforts to raise funds for what would eventually become Lineberger Stadium as we know it today.

Class of 69 student and football player David Abernethy was part of the fund raising drive and explained some of the challenges and hard work that it took to raise money for a stadium where at the time there was just a field and patch of woods.

“In the spring of 1968, it was announced that Gaston Schools would consolidate after the upcoming 1968-69 school year,” Abernethy said.  “The impact on Belmont was that Belmont Senior High would no longer exist after the class of 1968-69 graduated. It would consolidate with Cramerton High.  The more immediate impact on BSHS was that football games would no longer be allowed in the Old Davis Park. Games would have to be played in what is now Lineberger stadium.  The problem was that Lineberger stadium was just a hole in the ground - no fence,  lights, turf, sprinkler system and most importantly, no seating.

Efforts soon began to raise money.  A new stadium would cost around $150,000.  Billy Lail, who was the incoming Student Council President for  the ‘68-69 school year, spearheaded a door-to-door Stadium Fund Drive  by students to raise money toward a stadium. Lail wrote a letter to the editor of the Belmont Banner  and the Banner began to champion the fund raising campaign with editorials and news articles. Other civic clubs, such as Rotary, Lions, and the High School Interact Club sponsored barbeques, car washes and other fundraisers as part of that overall fund drive. By September of 1968, enough money  had been raised to install a sprinkler system,lights and make a few other improvements but there was still no seating.  It was three weeks until the first home game. The football team was told we could not play home games unless we had bleachers for seating.   Our games would have forfeited or played as away games. There was a last minute rush to gain funds and order bleachers before the first home game on September 19th .  A last minute donation covered the cost of bleachers but they still had to be ordered, shipped and erected. The entire team, school and community was in a panic.

The bleachers arrived just days before the October 19th game.  The physical education classes and shop classes began building the bleachers during their class time. By Wednesday night before the first game, the bleachers were still incomplete.  A call went out for volunteers to show up at the Stadium on Thursday evening to finish the job. It seemed as if the entire student body and half the town showed up to help. By late into the evening, it happened.  We had bleachers. 

The next evening, Friday September 19, 1968. The Belmont High Red Raiders hosted Kings Mountain in the first game ever played in what would become Lineberger Stadium.”.

South Point drivers ed teacher Russell Swilley talked a bit about the schools that merged with South Point back.

“Cramerton High opened its doors in 1924 and closed them in 1969,” he said. “Coach Jack Huss was always addressed as ‘Mr. Huss’ and served the citizens of Cramerton for fifty years. Also deserving recognition is Bennie Cunningham coach from 1946-1969. Reid High was started in 1918 and closed in 1966. It was founded by Prof. C.J.B. Reid who rode a bicycle from Lowell to Belmont every day. We also acknowledge a former Miss Reid High, Mrs. Jean Holmes, who works at South Point as an EC assistant.”

No matter what the numbers end up being on the scoreboard on the night of Oct. 4, everyone at this year’s Black Friday game will be a winner as they look back at South Point’s long and illustrious past.