Coaches remember the best

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 24, 2005

GASTON – To call it a tale of two cities would be too limiting.

Yet, if it wasn’t for Gaston and Gumberry, there certainly would have been no 2005 Regional Championship.

The Hurricanes of Northampton County High School – West were formed with the unification of the two schools and some 18 years later found themselves playing for a state football championship for the first time.

Leading the charge was a veteran coach in Diego Hasty who had roamed the sidelines for 29 years as head football coach at three schools before making his championship debut. At his side were Offensive Coordinator Jerome Williams, a veteran of Gumberry and Northampton-West, and Defensive Coordinator David Crossin, who has also spent his entire career in Northampton County

Those men along with assistant coaches Marvin Williams, Anthony Roberts and Derrick Hale, all made contributions to the Hurricanes becoming the most successful team in school history.

&uot;It was a wonderful experience,&uot; Hasty said of playing for the 1-A title at Groves Stadium in Winston-Salem. &uot;Certainly it is what everyone in the coaching profession tries to achieve and none of us had experienced it before.&uot;

West started the season with three straight wins over area rivals, racking up 120 points while surrendering just 30. A week later they suffered their only regular-season setback, falling at Charlotte Country Day by a count of 37-6.

From there, the Hurricanes rolled off seven straight victories, won a Tar-Roanoke Conference title and earned a number two seed in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state playoffs.

While West was having success, however, there were differing opinions on when individuals realized they were good enough to play for a state title.

&uot;I never went home and said, ‘we’re going to the state championship,’&uot; Hasty admitted. &uot;I knew we were a good team, but I felt like we had to play every week to get there.&uot;

For his part, Williams felt good all season about the team’s chances of reaching the title game.

&uot;I felt like it all year,&uot; Williams said. &uot;I knew we if we developed an offensive line, we were going to be good.

&uot;The week after we lost to Charlotte Country Day was also a turning point,&uot; he added. &uot;After losing, we came back and put up 63 points against Brunswick. I knew then nobody would beat us unless we beat ourselves.&uot;

Crossin said he felt good about the team from the beginning, but the state playoff bracketing worried him.

&uot;A lot of people asked me how we would be without Andre Williams (a bruising two-way started who graduated in June),&uot; he said. &uot;I told them last year wasn’t our year. 2005 was our year.

&uot;At the same time, my biggest fear was the playoffs because we had Roanoke and Manteo and teams we hadn’t played,&uot; he added. &uot;Not knowing exactly what to prepare your team for is tough. I knew if we made it past Manteo, we’d be looking good.&uot;

As the playoffs began, West rolled to a 54-0 win over T-RC rival North Edgecombe, completing a sweep of the Warriors that saw the Hurricanes outscore NE by a combined 109-0.

The next week, West rallied from an early deficit to knock off Roanoke 42-18 and then delivered on a late score to top Manteo 32-26 in the eastern semifinals.

After that win, the Hurricanes hit the road for the first time in the postseason. They traveled to Chocowinity and topped defending Regional Champion Southside 20-14 when senior Titus Lee scored with less than three minutes to play.

The Seahawks, who had trailed the entire game, scored with 3:48 to play to take the lead, but the Hurricanes didn’t panic.

Williams said he looked at his offense with confidence.

He said, &uot;With 3:48 left and down by two, I looked at the offensive line and said, ‘I’m not worried. Don’t ya’ll get worried. We’re going to score’.&uot;

That set up the state title game where they met Elkin – a place no Northampton-West team or coach had been.

&uot;It was a great thing for our kids,&uot; Crossin said. &uot;They got to see things they’ve never seen before; to experience 3,000 fans waiting for you to take the field.

&uot;This could be the turning point in our program’s history,&uot; he added. &uot;We’re going to stay hungry. We’re going to want to go back.&uot;

Hasty said the accomplishment meant more to him because of the kids who met the challenge.

&uot;It was a very satisfying year,&uot; he said. &uot;They were a great group of kids. I am happy for them. It’s not about me, it’s about them. Any good coach would have wanted to coach these kids because of their attitude and their work ethic.&uot;

Each of the coaches said they were proud of their team and they felt like the accomplishment was greater because of the young men who were part of the Northampton-West football team.

&uot;When I look back on this team, I’ll think more about how much we enjoyed each other,&uot; Hasty said. &uot;The practices, the games, bus rides and every day at school.

&uot;There were some days I didn’t feel like coming to work, but I wanted to come and be with them,&uot; he added.&uot;

Williams called the group a family and said that made the success even better.

&uot;I love working with Coach Hasty, Coach Crossin and all of them,&uot; he said. &uot;We argue and fuss, but that’s what family does. We are so close.

&uot;I love coaching because I love helping build the character of the young athletes,&uot; Williams added. &uot;I try to coach them to be a young man and to be prepared for the real world.&uot;

While they were working together, the Hurricanes established a season-record with 14 victories and became the first public school football team in Northampton County history to reach the state finals.

&uot;This team made history,&uot; Crossin said. &uot;For the next team to make history, they have to win a state championship.&uot;

The man at the helm of the ship that made history gave the full credit to his players.

&uot;It’s nice, but it’s not about me,&uot; Hasty said. &uot;My players come first. I’m glad for them. The memory is not Diego Hasty going to a state championship; it was West.

&uot;It takes coaches, players, administration, teachers, everybody for this to happen,&uot; he added. &uot;I’m glad just to be a part of it.&uot;