Coach Stephen Davis Leads Greensboro Dudley

Junios Smith | October 16th, 2017
Coach Stephen Davis (Photo by Toni Shaw)

Coach Stephen Davis (Photo by Toni Shaw)

No matter the obstacle, Dudley has continued to roll. The Panthers have made their gridiron presence felt in the state over the past 14 years since Stephen Davis assumed the head coaching position. Davis, who worked as the team’s defensive coordinator in 2001, has amassed a 155-35 record as of Oct. 6 in the NCHSAA 3A and 4A classifications. Since Davis became head coach in 2004, the Panthers have never had a losing season — the team finished 6-6 in 2011 — and never missed the playoffs.

Davis, who played free safety at North Carolina A&T in 1990, is originally from Calhoun Falls, S.C., and said Greensboro has always been good to him.
“I’ve liked the area ever since I moved here for college,” Davis said. “Before I worked at Dudley, I was an assistant coach at Page coaching (defensive backs) with my best friend, Victor Floyd. He wound up getting a job as the head coach at Dudley and he made me his defensive coordinator.”

Davis has made the best of his opportunity, winning a 3A state title in his fourth year at the helm in 2007 with a 28-20 victory over Charlotte Catholic before following it up with a 16-0 season and championship a year later with a 34-18 win against A.L. Brown. Dudley would have a 23-game winning streak between 2007 and 2009, while winning 34 of 35 in the same timespan.

Even a move to 4A didn’t stop the success of the Panthers. Although Dudley lost its second game in 2009 after going up in classification, the Panthers won their next 11 before a 9-8 loss in the state semifinals to eventual champion A.C. Reynolds. Dudley would go through a bit of a lull with a 22-15 record over the next three seasons, but broke out in 2013 with a perfect 15-0 record and its first 4A state title with a 24-7 win over Scotland County.

The Panthers would reach the 4A state semifinals in 2015 before falling 17-8 to eventual champion Charlotte Catholic, but rebounded nicely the following year with a 15-1 record, including a 21-10 win over the Cougars in the semifinals before thrashing Cape Fear 54-0 to collect the school’s fourth state championship.
Davis said he can’t take the credit for the sustained success over the years. “Each year, you have a different group of kids trying to live up to the success since I’ve been here, which means a lot,” Davis said. “Each state title has been very rewarding in its own right — Dudley hasn’t won one since integration — and the success of the kids make me happy. It’s a combination of a good JV program and great coaches who understand the area. I think the coaches here do a great job relating to the kids.

Then, you have the players who come in from middle school and know when they come to a program like Dudley, the expectations are high. They don’t want failure to fall on their shoulders and they’ve bought into the system with hard work. We play old-school football with tough defense and trying to control the ball on offense.” This season has been riddled with injuries, as the Panthers have lost several key players instrumental to the team’s success over the years for extended periods of time — some for the remainder of the season.

“We’ve had some big time injuries with guys who are really good in the state,” Davis said. “(Defensive lineman) Caleb Matthews is one of the best in the state and then we have another lineman in Reggie Robertson whose been great for us. (Defensive back) D.J. Crossen is a Virginia Tech commit, and he’ll be out for the year. (Another defensive back) Myles Berry, has been the leader of our defense and an ECU commit — we lost him for the season.”

“On offensive, we’ve got (running back) Zareik Rush, who’s a Howard commit, Gerald Simpson who’s been a dynamic guy for us at quarterback and also Demetri Fitzgerald on the offensive line. We’ve had to make some adjustments to recover and it’s just one of those seasons where the injury bug hit us. We don’t make excuses — we have a ‘next man up’ mentality and that’s the only way we can play. It’s unfortunate, but the guys who come up have to be ready.”
Despite the injuries, Dudley has started the season at 6-1 as of Oct. 6 when the Panthers defeated Ben L. Smith 38-6. Davis said players have stepped up to the challenge to help keep the title defense a possibility.

“We’ve had guys like (linemen) Coutize Pope and Chris Stewart come up to help us and then others like Landon Johnson, who plays linebacker, but has also taken snaps at tight end,” Davis said. “We’ve got a few players who put the team before themselves to help out wherever they can, including playing both sides of the ball. We’ve had to bring in at least seven guys from the junior varsity program and the team’s struggled a little bit because of our injuries, but they’ve done big things on the varsity side.”

Dudley is playing in 3A again, but Davis said there isn’t a dropoff in talent with numerous teams also doing the same.

“We might lose a few guys (due to enrollment) here and there, but it’s not just us,” Davis said. “Four of the five teams we played in the playoffs went down to 3A for some reason or another. With more schools being built across the state and any time the numbers that drop in the neighborhood you may see the numbers drop. “As coaches, we’ll continue to play with the hands we’re dealt with.

Davis said he’s hoping to continue working with the program for years to come. “I’m getting up there in age, so I don’t want to put a number on anything,” Davis said. “I think I’m fortunate enough to have one of the best jobs in the state and if the principal wants me around to continue coaching here, that’s what I’ll do.”

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