There’s no way to determine how many tickets Earl Lentz has torn since he started volunteering to work the gate at A.L. Brown’s Kannapolis Memorial Stadium in 1963.But here’s one way to measure his longevity: Nine different Wonders head football coaches have walked the sidelines during the 51 years that Lentz has held his post.On Sept. 27, A.L. Brown honored Lentz for his years of service during the Wonders home football game with North Mecklenburg. Ticket taking has always been a volunteer position for the 79-year-old Lentz. He retired from teaching at Brown in 1992, but school leaders have continued to welcome his support for over 20 more years.Lentz is the longest-tenured volunteer in the Wonders’ football program and is an amazing example to some of the other dedicated volunteers who have served the team for many years.Terry Berryman, for example, has been filming Wonders games for the coaching staff since Bob Boswell first asked him to do it in the late 1970s. Don Hines has been a mainstay on the field chain crew since 1984. And though he still helps service the team’s equipment, Bob Farris was the official statistician for 24 years.But few people have stronger ties to A.L. Brown than Lentz. In 1952, he was a member of the school’s first graduating class. He eventually married his high school sweetheart, Betty Ruth, who also went on to teach at Brown. Their sons, Barry and E.B., both graduated from Brown, and Barry now teaches there.Lentz played basketball and baseball at Catawba College and is a member of the school’s athletic hall of fame. He still holds a couple of the baseball team’s RBI records.After seven years of teaching and coaching at Bethel High School in southern Cabarrus County, Lentz returned to his alma mater. He coached several sports at Brown but was best known for coaching the boys basketball team from 1963 to 1979. His teams won Western North Carolina state championships in 1967 and 1968.Through his service at the ticket gate, Lentz’s connection to the football team outlasts any ties he has with the school’s other sports teams. But rarely does Lentz ever get to watch any of the games he works.He and the others that work with him can decipher a game’s action by checking the scoreboard and listening to Mike Hazeltine and Allen Cauble on the public address system. Normally, Lentz gets to leave his post at the end of the third quarter.But instead of staying for the rest of the game, he goes home and listens to the fourth quarter on the radio. Lentz gets most of his enjoyment by seeing familiar faces as they come through the gate.“I know most of the people in Kannapolis, so I get to see all of them,” Lentz said. “Some of my former students and people I went to high school with come through, and I get to see their families.”Like Lentz, other support staff are volunteers and serve because of their allegiance to the school.Berryman, who also mows the Memorial Stadium grass, has a registered “Wonders” state license plate on one of his vehicles. He proudly wears championship rings he received for Brown’s state titles in 1989 and 1997, in honor of his service during that time as the team’s film man.Hines serves as the “box man” on the chain gain, meaning he holds the down marker for the six-man crew. He started volunteering because most of the men he worked with at Cannon Mills Plant No. 1 helped out in some way.Farris was recruited to be the stat man by then-head coach Bruce Hardin, who moved next door to him in 1989. Last year, he suffered a leg injury when he took a hit on the sideline during Brown’s state playoff game with Hickory Ridge.Farris is part of an equipment team that includes Ken Orbison and Keith Hodge, each of whom has volunteered for at least 10 years. Hodge, a 1986 Brown graduate, has the honor of painting the white “K” at midfield on the Memorial Stadium grass before every varsity home game.Of course, there are too many others on the support staff to name all of them. The longest-tenured ones agree that the services they provide allow the coaches to concentrate on their main priority: teaching football.“I know with these guys I can depend on them,” Berryman said. “If I need something, they’ll pick up the slack. They’re not here for the accolades. They are here for the program.”
Monday, Nov. 04, 2013
Lentz leads a troop of longtime A.L. Brown High football volunteers
Joe Habina is a freelance writer for the Cabarrus News. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at email@example.com.
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