A look at the Lions

A sneak peek at an item for Wednesday’s paper…

As part of our state championship coverage, The Dispatch is profiling Southern Vance’s opponent on Saturday, the Shelby Golden Lions

Dispatch Sports Editor

RALEIGH — If the challenge of playing a defending state champion riding a 20-game winning streak wasn’t enough, Southern Vance will also be facing one of the richest football traditions in the state when it lines up against the Shelby Golden Lions at in the 2AA State Championship at Groves Stadium in Winston-Salem on Saturday.

The Golden Lions fielded their first team in 1911 and have won at least 643 games since then (records from 1914-1919 aren’t available) to become the winningest program in North Carolina High School football history.

Along the way, Shelby has won 10 NCHSAA or WNCHSAA (Western) state championships, 33 conference championships and more than 70 percent of its games. Since 1950, Shelby has had only two losing seasons – 1990 and 1955.

All of that success speaks to the stability in the head coach’s office. Chris Norman, in his ninth season at the helm, is only the fourth different coach at the school since 1936.

He owns two of those state titles as a head coach – 1998 and last season – but he isn’t about to start taking trips to the championship lightly.

“As I get older and in this longer, I think I cherish the opportunities more and more,” he said at Monday‘s press conference. “Last week at Pisgah was a great atmosphere for high school football. You know, we feel very fortunate to be back. And we’ll try to enjoy the ride home again.”

At about 4:28 p.m. on Saturday, the Shelby High drum line will start playing and the Golden Lions will take the field. They’ll run through a banner and start forming a pile at about the 40 yard-line, with players either gently lying on the top of the pile or the more daring – and lighter – players doing flips and twisting dives onto their teammates.

It’s been that way for a long time. Fans expect to see that pile, followed by a win on the field. Living up to those expectations can be tough.

“It’s intimidating sometimes,” Norman said. “Particularly being a hometown guy who played there and was directly influenced by two of those guys. To have played for Coach (Gerald) Allen and to have played under Coach (Jim) Taylor when he was an assistant coach and coming back to work for him, to have the opportunity to do what I’m doing is an awesome experience.

“It’s very demanding. It’s very stressful. I worry about all the little things, but to be a part of a school that has kind of tradition is very special. We don’t win every game. We don’t have the opportunity to be in this position every year, but it is a goal of ours to be here.”

One of those “little things” on Norman’s mind this week is the potential letdown factor after last week’s 28-20 win at previously unbeaten Canton Pisgah.

“There was a lot of hype for that game,” he said. “One of my assistants and I were talking about it and we thought that there hadn’t been that kind of hype since we played Cummings in the Western Finals (in 2004). We worry about that. Emotions are such a big part of high school football. To get in that kind of atmosphere with a big crowd, 12,000-plus, yeah you worry about it.

“But we’re playing for a state championship against a good team. This isn’t the time of year to letdown.”

Contact the writer at rcapps@hendersondispatch.com.


One Response to “A look at the Lions”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    No doubt Southern will have their hands full. Shelby ranks up there with Independence and J.H. Rose.

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