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CHAMPIONS OF STANLY: ‘The perfect storm’ of 1993: North Stanly wins state soccer title

Some say all that is required for a sports team to be successful is that the coach knows the X’s and O’s and teaches the fundamentals.

But coaches who are truly successful at the craft know there is no shortcut to success, and that they must occupy roles such as motivator, teacher, publicist and long-range planner as well.

Bob Parry’s title during the 1993-94 school year was that of head soccer coach at North Stanly High School. And recently, as he looked back at that year, he recounted serving in many of those roles during a season he described as “the perfect storm.”

In that season, North Stanly brought home the school’s only state soccer championship. And 25 years later, it remains the only state soccer championship earned by a Stanly County School.

Parry, who had been teaching at South Stanly, was brought in by North Stanly principal Lynn White and athletic director Rudi Heath in 1989 to guide the school’s newly-formed soccer team.

“I had been volunteering as a coach in the Albemarle Parks and Recreation youth soccer program,” said Parry. “Bob Storey, Phil Scheble, and myself had worked with that program for several years, and we had lots of players coming into North Stanly that we had coached as youngsters. That gave us a good start.”

Having formerly played and coached soccer at Pfeiffer, Parry knew success would require much more than simply setting up practices and coaching the games, and he began the lengthy process of building a program from scratch.

Early on, the team experienced some growing pains.

“(Charlotte) Catholic beat us 12-0 one of the first times we played them, but we used that loss as a learning experience and as motivation for the next four years,” said Parry.

Hard work during the off-season, including attending camps and encouraging players to participate on classic and challenge level travel teams, in addition to instilling proper nutritional habits and the importance of conditioning, began to show in the team’s record.

Under Parry’s leadership, the team improved steadily and entered the fall of 1993 with high hopes.

Four teams were expected to challenge for the Rocky River Conference Championship that season, with Mount Pleasant, Salisbury and perennial favorite Charlotte Catholic joining North Stanly at the top of the pre-season forecasts.

The season began on an ominous note, however, as the Comets dropped their first match of the season to Central Cabarrus in the annual Turf Wars preseason tournament. And things didn’t go much better in the squad’s next match of the event, a 3-3 draw with Asheboro.

The team picked to challenge for the conference crown was winless two games into its schedule.

“Our captains called a team meeting after that,” said Parry, “and they came back to me with a message that they would not lose again.”

Upon receiving this information, Parry offered the team motivation to make good on its promise.

“I told them I would not cut my hair or mustache until they lost, and if they indeed didn’t lose again during the season, they could shave my head and face on stage in front of the whole student body.”

With that agreement in place, the squad went on a tear. First, it avenged the earlier tie with Asheboro, taking a 4-3 win on the road, followed by consecutive wins over Mount Pleasant (3-2), West Stanly (5-0) and Albemarle (7-2) before gaining its first-ever win over Charlotte Catholic, 2-1 in overtime.

“Our seniors remembered that 12-0 match,” said Parry.

Following the big win over Catholic, Parry’s mane and mustache survived a close call in a 6-6 draw with West Rowan, a team not considered to be a league power.

But following that tie, the Comets closed out the season with nine straight conference wins to finish atop the standings at 13-0-1.

It was during that run, according to Parry, that some of the “extras” instilled in his players over the previous three years gave the team the confidence and stamina it needed to prevail.

“Our team was in great condition in part due to the off-season work and play put in by individuals. And our players bought into the importance of good nutritional habits,” Parry said.

In addition, the squad followed a structured regimen on game days.

“When school would turn out, the team would go together and eat a good pre-match meal,” said the coach. “After that we came back to school and had a required study hall, followed by an hour or so for the players to get ready for the match in the way that was best for them as individuals. Some would take a nap, some would sit quietly and think about their duties in the match, some would sit around and talk. After that, we dressed, went out and played.”

NSHS students “got behind us early,” according to Parry, and they were reminded to come out for home matches by a unique tactic.

“On game days, a little before school dismissed at 3, I would go out to the press box and crank up our team’s pre-match theme music over the stadium PA system so the students could hear it as they left school for the day…it was a reminder to them that we had a home match, and wanted them to come out that night and support us.”

The success also drew the attention and backing of the community.

“I can’t say enough about the great support we received,” Parry said.

“Mr. White, Coach Heath and Rick Laney (booster club president) were tremendous.”

Parry noted he spoke often with Jack Gaster, who was then the AHS football coach.

“Jack and I got to be good friends,” said Parry. “One of the things we both shared was how life as a winning coach can be lonely. You enjoy the success, but everyone else is trying to shoot you down.”

Entering the NCHSAA playoffs, North Stanly hosted the first two rounds of playoff matches, easily dispatching West Henderson (7-0) and Avery County (6-1) before traveling to Mooresville and notching a 3-1 victory to advance to the NCHSAA semifinals.

And what would be the reward for making the fourth round?

A third date with Charlotte Catholic.

During the regular season, the Comets had twice topped Catholic’s Cougars by identical 2-1 tallies. And despite the old adage “it’s hard to beat a good team three times in a season,” North Stanly did just that, claiming a decisive 5-2 home win in front of what Parry described as “a packed house,” thus advancing to the championship round on Nov. 19 at Broughton High School in Raleigh.

Knowing it would be nearly impossible for teenage students to be focused in the classroom with a state championship game looming that evening, Parry presented White with a proposal to make the trip to Raleigh an all-day educational experience. White agreed, and with the help of the booster club, arranged for a charter bus to transport the team comfortably.

“First, we had a tour of the North Carolina Museum of Art,” said Parry. “It was an opportunity for the team to relax and enjoy the experience together. Then we had our pre-match meal together at an Italian restaurant, and from there we followed our usual game-day ritual as much as we could.”

Facing the eastern champion Southwest Guilford Cowboys, North Stanly “started out tentative,” Parry said in an article from the Nov. 23, 1993 edition of The Stanly News & Press, “but we started to wear them down in the second half.”

After entering the halftime break with a scoreless tie, the Comets took a 1-0 lead with 30 minutes left in regulation when Ben Parry (Bob’s son) scored on a follow of a deflected penalty kick. Parry scored again on a header of a Shane Harrington corner kick at the 58-minute mark.

“After that, we had Tony Robinson keep pushing the ball up the right side as far as he could take it. That gave the defense a chance to rest and regroup. We kept doing that until we ate up the clock,” said Parry.

With two goals in the match, Ben Parry became the all-time single season NCHSAA scoring leader to that date, ending the year with 63 goals, and was named the MVP of the championship match. But the elder Parry distributed the praise equally.

“This was a total team effort,” said the coach after the match. “Although Ben was named MVP, the real MVP is all 22 guys on this team. Everyone played a great game.”

Twenty-five years later, Parry summed up the 1993 campaign as a whole.

“There were lots of pieces that came together that season,” he said. “These young men were able to see the results of their hard work and dedication over the previous seasons. They learned self-discipline. They learned their roles on the team and filled those roles well. On top of that, they learned that you need some breaks to go your way, too. We didn’t have any serious discipline issues or significant injuries during the season.”

These days, Bob Parry can usually be found at the clock and watch repair shop in Mount Gilead that he and his brother Tom operate. The job keeps him active, even though he is recovering from recent coronary bypass surgery, and has been retired from teaching and coaching for some time.

But the memories of that “perfect storm” 25 years ago still bring a smile to his face.

Toby Thorpe is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.