Up & Coming Weekly

September 05, 2017

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 32 of 40

32 UCW SEPTEMBER 6 - 12, 2017 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM On the first day of school last week, Cape Fear's Chris Matthews was getting around campus with the aid of a four-wheeled scooter. It's not because he's reverting to childhood or because he lost a bet. His high school football season is over. Matthews was injured when Cape Fear played in the High School OT football jamboree at Cardinal Gibbons High School. Two defenders fell on his leg, and the three- year starter at linebacker for last year's Eastern 4-A champions immediately knew something was wrong. "I felt a pop and I started getting upset and angry,'' Matthews said. "I knew it was going to be something bad.'' Colt head coach Jake Thomas said Matthews suffered a clean break in the tibia in his left leg. Complicating the injury was damage to liga- ments in the ankle, plus the ankle was displaced. Add it all up, and Matthews is looking at eight weeks in a cast and up to three months or more trying to rehabilitate the injury. "All the thoughts went through my head of not being able to play, senior year being snatched away before you're able to play the first game,'' he said. "That's why I'm rolling around on the tricycle.'' Matthews has already had surgery on his damaged leg, and he's listening carefully to the advice of his orthopedist, Dr. Christopher Barnes at Fayetteville Orthopaedics. But he's also practical, and he's still trying to make as big a contribution as he can for Cape Fear, but in a sideline role. He missed Cape Fear's season-opening win at Clinton as he was home recuperating from surgery on his leg. But he was back on the sidelines and in the pre-game huddle with the team as it won its home opener against Cumberland County rival Seventy-First. "You could see him when the captains go out on the field,'' Thomas said. "He's been a three-year starter. He was visibly upset.'' But he knows there are other things he can do for the Colts. "He's going to ful- fill the role of helping coach the other guys,'' Thomas said. "Now that he's back, he'll be around at practice, take on more of a coach's role.'' He's also going to branch out into multimedia, joining Cape Fear assistant Joe Grates to co-host the second season of the Cape Fear High School football show, which will be posted weekly on You Tube. Not that there was any chance of it happening, he won't be forgotten by his teammates. "They want to dedicate the season to him,'' Thomas said. The school has already ordered stickers with the No. 40 on them. As soon as they arrive, Thomas said each player will add one to his helmet. Despite the injury, Matthews isn't giving up on the hope of playing college football next season. That will be the focus of his rehab, he said. But the good news for him is he prepared for the possibility of injury in advance by focusing on academics and assuring himself that football alone won't be his ticket to a college education. "I listened to those warnings,'' he said regarding the advice to always take care of his grades first. "It's a contact sport and everybody is open to injury. That's why it's important for every athlete to keep the academics up.'' Matthews begins his senior year with a 4.6 grade point average. He was an Up & Coming Weekly scholar athlete last season. "Nothing will keep me down,'' he said. "There's a lot of negative I could look at, but as long as you focus on the positive you can get through anything and come back stronger.'' Chris Matthews: Out for the Season but Focused by EARL VAUGHAN JR. HIGH SCHOOL HIGHLIGHTS Friday Night Lights Can Last Forever by EARL VAUGHAN JR. Some high school athletes have a dif- ficult time picking a single highlight of their athletic career. For me, it's never been a problem. My magical moment happened on a November night in 1969 in Bryson City, North Carolina. And what happened then helped plant the seed that led me to telling the stories of future generations of coaches and athletes. I was a sophomore at Swain County High School. I lived there with my parents while my dad was serving as pastor at Bryson City Presbyterian Church. I was good friends at church with a young man named Max Witt who was a rabid University of Tennessee foot- ball fan and who helped encourage my own growing interest in the sport. In the fall of 1969, I was enthralled by the book "Instant Replay," the autobiography of Green Bay Packer great Jerry Kramer, and went totally overboard. I decided to go out for the Swain County football team. Our coach, Milton Barden, was incredibly kind to someone who had a better chance of being first to land on the moon than he did of being a football player. I finally realized I was woefully out of my league and eventually asked Coach Barden if I could be the team manager. He accepted. So I was still around and felt like a part of the program. We got off to a 6-0 start and were looking good, then we hit the meat of our schedule and went 0-2-1 against the three teams we absolutely had to beat to make the state playoffs. And that's what led to that magic night. Our last game was with Towns County, Georgia. A new, strug- gling program that only had a handful of guys and could barely field a team. Coach Barden decided if we couldn't make the play- offs, maybe we could make history. He dressed every player we had, varsity and jayvee, for the game, and handed me a No. 88 jersey and said I could suit up. This would be my first and only high school foot- ball game. Coach Barden's plan was simple. We'd play our first team on offense and they would score with relative ease and try to allow a number of play- ers to set some school records. As an example, our star running back, Larry Beck, rushed eight times for 427 yards. Nat Watson, my sophomore classmate and wide receiver, had three touchdown catches to give him a total of 15 for the season. Defense was a different story. Guys of my talent level and only slightly better spent much of the night on the field. That way, Towns could score too and wouldn't get beaten to death. The final score was 81-46. I had a hand in two plays that led to the 46. I got totally burned on a kickoff return where the ballcarrier zipped by me. And I made my best tackle of the night on a two-point conversion try. Trouble was, the ballcarrier was five yards into the endzone at the time. If you want to take the trouble, you can find this game listed in the online NC High School Athletic Association record book as one of the highest-scoring football games in state history. And unlike some games on that list, we set our records in regulation, without the benefit of overtime. I wax nostalgic now because this week I got a very special piece of mail from Swain County. It was a big envelope containing a Maroon Swain home jersey with the No. 88 on it — not THE jersey of course, but still my number from my one and only football game. What does this have to do with being a reporter? Well, someone took the time to get the information on that game to Asheville's The Citizen-Times. The fol- lowing week, a reporter called coach Barden and did a column, and I got my name in the paper on the sports page for the first time in my life. I've tried to make that same experience happen for young people in the 45 years I've been doing this. It's also a reminder of why it's important to make sure and tell someone in the media about what your athletes are doing. You never know when a magic moment will happen — and when history will be made. EARL VAUGHAN JR., Sports Editor. COMMENTS? EarlUCWS- ports@gmail.com. (910) 364-6638. Former Swain County football coach Milton Barden Coach Barden handed me a No. 88 jer- sey and said I could suit up. Chris Matthews

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