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South falls in emotional farewell to Crowell


South Davidson's Preston Owens follows teammate Cord McDowell (right) as Owens breaks a tackle on a long run that set up a touchdown against Chatham Central on Friday. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)


DENTON | With a little more than four minutes gone by in the opening quarter of Friday night’s homecoming game, the weight of the world didn’t literally come crashing down on South Davidson’s football team.



It just seemed that way.



After expending a good amount of pent-up emotional energy and grabbing an early lead on their first drive of the game, the Wildcats could do nothing to stop Chatham Central the rest of the way in a somber 40-14 Yadkin Valley Conference loss to the Bears at Briggs Stadium.



It was the team’s first game since the unexpected passing of head coach Mike Crowell last weekend and undoubtedly it’s most surreal.



“It’s been a really tough week,” said a teary-eyed Kevin Bowers, who has been named South’s interim coach for the remainder of the season. “Wins and losses weren’t even on the agenda tonight. I am so proud of the effort of our kids.

“We miss Mike and we love Mike.”



A jam-packed home side of the stadium was standing-room-only as many wore T-shirts honoring the late coach. All in the stands had some kind of connection to Crowell, who had coached at Denton and South Davidson for nearly 30 years.



“One word describes him and that’s ‘irreplaceable’,” said Sammy Jermaine, a 1999 South graduate who wrestled for Crowell and later served as an assistant coach under him. “He brought so much to this community. I had to be here tonight and I just wish he was here to see the number of people he affected.”



Jermaine was only one of many community members who had been grieving for the past week and it seemed everyone pulled together to talk about, laugh about and cry about a man who wore many hats for current and past students.



“He was my dad, he was mentor and one of my friends,” said former wrestler Kevin Hulin, a 2007 South graduate. “I grew up rough. He was always there for me and he would do anything for me. Look at this place tonight. We don’t win football games here and we might get 200 people (to a game).



“They are all here to honor him. You can’t even get a place to sit.”



South looked as if it might put a memorable end to a gut-wrenching week when it went 59 yards in nine plays on its opening possession and scored on Jared Page’s 3-yard run. The conversion attempt failed but the Wildcats led for one of the few times all season.



Three plays later, however, it all began to unravel as Chatham Central’s Zack Burke took an option pitch and raced 67 yards for a touchdown. That started a string of 40 straight points for the Bears, which was enhanced by two lost fumbles on consecutive kickoff returns for the home team in the first quarter.



“We actually had a great week of practice,” said Bowers. “We did some things to kind of change the pace for the kids. We came out like a firestorm, riding that wave of emotion on that first drive. Then....”



South could not contain Chatham Central’s backfield duo of Burke and LaQuinn Mordecai, who combined to rush for 203 yards and three scores.



The Bears also threw three TD passes, two from quarterback Chase Fuquay and one from Mordecai on a halfback pass.

South added its final touchdown in the waning seconds as Michael Rebello plowed his way into the end zone from 14 yards out.

“We came out and gave 100 percent,” said Page, a senior. “That’s what Crowell would have wanted. It’s been rough on all of us. Not seeing him there anymore, on the sideline, is tough. He’s one of the best friends I had. Hopefully, we can put all these sad memories behind us and remember how he inspired us.”



The win improved the Bears to 1-3 in the YVC, 3-5 overall. South dipped to 1-3 in the league, 1-7 overall.



The night also capped a taxing few days on the South administration.



“I have found out how close-knit this community is and how good this community is,” said principal Mike Lawson, who is in his first year at the school. “Handling people has been very delicate this week but all these kids have responded so well. And the faculty has been amazing.



“With all the things that have gone on this week, it’s been emotionally overwhelming for me. I can’t imagine what these 15-, 16-, 17-year-old kids have been going through.”



South athletic director Lawren Cody had a personal spin on her feelings toward Crowell.



“I remember throwing the shot put and discus for him (when Crowell was the track coach),” said Cody, a 1998 graduate. “And then I worked with him. He was a friend more than a colleague. He never told you no and he was student-centered. We tried to keep things as normal as possible this week with homecoming going on.



“But the thing is, everybody knew Crowell.”



Notes: Madison Sigmon was crowned homecoming queen at halftime. South travels to West Montgomery next Friday.