Many decades have passed since the 1951 New Hanover High School football team won the state championship, but the memories haven’t faded.
“There were so many people in that stadium you couldn’t get to the sidelines hardly,” said Daniel Skinner, who was a senior on the 1951 team.
The Wildcats took home the title with a 14-13 win over High Point on their home field in front of nearly 10,000 fans.
The players where not overwhelmed by the big stage because they had played for huge crowds at home throughout the season.
“We played in front of 7-10,000 people every Friday night we were at Legion Stadium,” said George Gaddy, who was a junior on the team.
The Wildcats were led by legendary head coach Leon Brogden, who always seemed to know the right move, including starting Burt Grant at quarterback over future NFL Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen.
“Sonny could have played that way,” Skinner said. “But Brog had coached Grant and had drilled him, and got him to think the way he wanted him to think.”
The surviving members of the ‘51 team now hope the current Wildcats can experience the same feelings they did 66 years ago. New Hanover will play AC Reynolds for the state title on Saturday at Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium.
“If the boys could just stop and see what is out there for them, and learn their lessons from coach (Earl) Smith, it will be something they can’t find anyplace else,” Gaddy said.
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