The Ridgeview Panthers were on the move. The team blanked every opponent they played. As they met cross-county rival Newton, the team scored a season high 46 points in another shutout. With Samuel W. Davis, Jr. as their head coach, they seemed unstoppable. Led by two players with double-digit touchdowns the 1960 football squad sailed through the regular season. Spindale, Lenoir, North Wilkesboro all fell by big margins. Going into the playoffs in the 2A division, Ridgeview beat Kannapolis 12-0, then Wadesboro by a score of 36-0. The only team that stood in their way was Lincoln High from Chapel Hill.
That night, disaster struck. Not only did Lincoln score, they beat the Panthers 38-8, ending a perfect season. Going into the game, Ridgeview’s press box announcer was calling them the Untouchables. According to lore, the game ended with Eliis Johnson saying, “the Untouchables have been touched.” As mad as they were at him for saying it, everyone was even more sad by the outcome of a season that was one game from perfect.
Ridgeview followed in 1961 with another conference winning run. This time Newton was able to score but still lost. The Panthers came out on top, 24-14. And once again they got to the state championship, again playing Chapel Hill. The outcome was worse than the year before. Chapel Hill 22, Ridgeview 0.
1962 was a better year with the Panthers winning the state championship against Edenton 19-8. Along the way, only Canton put points on the board during the regular season. Lexington scored a touchdown in the playoffs But the goal of winning it all had been achieved. That year two sophomore backs, Edward Cunningham (6) and Douglas Bumgarner (5) scored touchdowns behind the mammoth running of Leonard Clay with 15 touchdowns. It was a good year.
The following year more teams scored on the Panthers but they still won all their games. The championship came down to a game with Lexington, whom they had beaten the year before in the playoffs. Final score, Lexington 26, Ridgeview 18. Edward Cunningham and Douglas Bumgarner were now juniors, along with Allen Burch. That season, they scored, 14, 12 and 10 touchdowns respectively. It was a disappointing season for a team with such a winning tradition. Since 1957, they had never lost a regular season game. The real question as the rising seniors came back for their final year was, “can we put it all together?”
The trio of runners were solid. So were both their offensive and defensive lines. John Hodge, Hubbard Morrison, Nelson Brockenbrough, Mitchell Anthony and Xenephone Lutz were all hard hitters. In those days they played both sides of the ball. The backs too, who served as defensive backs and safeties on defense.
Over the summer, Tillis Rendleman remembered the sting of the loss. He said, “we seniors decided that we were going to get in shape and stay in shape.” They were going to do whatever it took to avoid a heartbreaking loss like they had against Lexington. The outcome? Next week.