GREENSBORO — Dudley will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its unbeaten NCHSAA Class 3-AA football state championship team during halftime of Friday night's game against Southwest Guilford.
A number of players from that Panthers team, which went 16-0 and outscored opponents 641-122, will be recognized. That group includes quarterback Ricky Lewis Jr., running back Joseph Jackson and three of Dudley's "Four Horsemen" — Darius Hall, Josh Jones and Kelton Shepherd. Some players from Dudley's 2007 state championship team also will be on hand at J.A. Tarpley Stadium to celebrate their back-to-back titles.
Here's what Dudley offensive coordinator Antonio Kirkpatrick, head coach Steven Davis and now-Navy Lt. Joshua Dwight Jones (U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 2013) remember about that team:
"That was just a great group of kids. They came in every day wanting to get better. They always challenged each other. ... Some of today's players take their friendship and aren't able to separate that. When they were going first 'O' vs. first 'D,' they wanted to beat each other every time. Afterward they'd be cool again, but during that 2½ hours they wanted to win and get the best out of that guy they were going against. ... That's what got us better."
"The Four Horsemen and Ricky Lewis ... that was a self-motivated group. ... I remember during the fall we had just started hitting and Chris Neal, who was my nose guard and went on to play at A&T, was doing an Oklahoma drill and was so fast and quick off the ball that he grabbed the center, walked him out and threw him about 5 yards. I stopped right there and said, 'You're going to mess up our season.' But those guys fed off each other. When we were in the weight room, they would battle and battle to see who could lift the most. They were just football players, not prototypical guys. ... They wanted to win, and they did. ... Those guys understand that they kind of set the bar for the program, even though we won a state title in '07. ... That was a special team."
LT. JOSHUA DWIGHT JONES
"When you go through what we went through in regards to the agonizing practices — our practices were harder than games ... It was strenuous. We had paint flying off our helmets during practice. Our helmets were chipped all the time; that's how hard we hit."
"I told Coach (Gerald) Gamble we're going to win two state championships. That was my vision for the team, my goal. I thoroughly believed that the Lord, with everything we went through and the talent that we had, was leading us there. That was the summer before my junior year. ... We didn't have the facilities compared to a lot of the schools we were playing. We had a chip on our shoulders. We were hungry and humble. You combine hungry for success to be the best and humility ... and we had leaders on every level. We challenged each other constantly."
"I'm excited (about getting back together) because of the work and the seeds that we planted. When you look at the success a lot of the guys have now I'm filled with joy because I know that from that point on in their lives they are champions."