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Short on boosters, Harding High's state champions turn to community
Rams football launches crowd source campaign
Published Thursday, December 14, 2017 2:17 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

Harding High School football players hoist the N.C. 4A championship banner after the Rams beat Scotland County 33-20 on Dec. 9 in Winston-Salem. Harding, which doesn't have a booster club, is turning to crowd sourcing to raise money for championship rings and pendants for players, coaches and cheerleaders.

Harding University High School football has one more mountain to move.

While memories associated with the school’s historic 4A state title win, its first since 1953, are priceless, Harding doesn’t have a booster club to help pay for championship gear. That leaves the school and the team responsible for raising money.

“You’re looking at championship rings for a team, supporting staff and cheerleaders—they get pendants,” Rams coach Sam Greiner said. “You’re looking at around $20,000 to be able to do that. A lot of people have $20,000. Most of those schools that win those championships, they have booster club programs, and that’s not a problem, but $20,000 to our program is a mountain amount of money. That’s what we’re about – moving mountains.”

A crowd-funding effort run by Harding alumnus Jamelle Cuthbertson has raised $2,555. The school has also opened a similar campaign.

“It takes about eight weeks after we get the money to design the rings for them to have their ceremony, which will be another special day,” Greiner said. “Some of the alumni are trying to do something on the outside to donate as well.”

Greiner took to the Rams from 1-10 in 2015, his first season, to 14-1 in 2017. Before his arrival, Harding last appeared in a state championship game in 1987 and had four winning seasons since 1992.

“If someone wrote a story script on this, or made a movie, it would almost be too unbelievable to be true, even though it is true,” Greiner said. “That’s how great this was.”

The Rams, who beat Scotland County 30-22 in the championship game, showed plenty of heart despite less than ideal facilities. Their star player and the nation’s No. 1 junior running back, Quavaris Crouch, for example, spent his first summer paycheck on agility equipment. The championship game MVP, Crouch earned scholarship offers from football powers like Clemson, Stanford and Alabama. Quarterback Braheam Murphy is headed to the U.S. Military Academy on a football scholarship and more than 20 schools are recruiting guard Jovaughn Gwyn.

Harding football is successful, but hardscrabble. The practice field is the school's baseball field, where players dodge fire ant mounds. There's no field house where the team can retreat at halftime, leaving them to gather in the end zones during intermission. In the West Region championship game, rival Vance High rented a tent for its players to escape the halftime cold while Harding remained outside.

“It would be nice to have some of the things that the other schools have,” Greiner said. “We don’t have a practice facility that actually has grass. We practice on dirt. We practice on the outskirts of the baseball field, where the irrigation doesn’t work. …It’s tough. A lot of schools were getting turf fields, which makes it easier for a school that has limited fields. We’re not one of them. We don’t have a field house. We have to walk about a quarter of a mile from our locker room that we share with the basketball team, with all the other sports teams. We have to walk from there and back to go to the main field.

Whenever we get in playoff games in the cold, we’re just sitting out in the cold at halftime. We don’t have anywhere to go.”
Harding, like most of Charlotte’s inner city schools, struggles to build long-term support on and off campus. Greiner hopes the Rams’ accomplishments help illuminate the school’s needs in terms of academics as well as athletic facilities.

“In the school, it would be great to have teachers support, and not want to leave,” he said. “It’s tough, being able to sustain people so they can build relationships over time. A lot of times these kids get new teachers every year. It’s hard to build a family-type environment there, when sometimes they are getting substitute teachers teaching them math and science. It’s hard to prepare them for the SATs, and things like that. There are a lot of limitations that I would love to see grow. For us to sustain this long term, we would have to do stuff like that for us to be successful.”

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