Childress - Perryton’s Dalton Rigdon almost skipped the 68th Annual Greenbelt Bowl all-star football game Saturday night.
Good thing for the North he didn’t.
On a night where Childress coaching legend Charlie Johnston stole the show - not a thing he wanted any part of - making one last appearance on the sidelines, Rigdon had his moments in the sun as a wide receiver on the new Fair Park Stadium turf leading the North to a 19-9 win over the South.
Rigdon is headed to Texas Tech on a track scholarship (he won the Class 4A state long jump last month) and will attempt to make Kliff Kingsbury’s Red Raider football team as a walk-on.
“The atmosphere was great, my teammates were great and the coaches were great,” said Rigdon who was named the overall game MVP lighting up the South catching eight passes for 187 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown grab from Caprock’s Zack Encinias in the second quarter putting the North ahead 13-0. “I wasn’t for sure I was even going to play in this game. I’m moving to Lubbock this next week and I would already be there if I wasn’t here. But I’m so glad that I chose to come and here an experience this. I get to play with my boys one last time.
“Zack and I worked on things in practice and it started clicking and worked out for us.”
Encinias thrives under the all-star lights as he was coming off an excellent game last week in the ASCO All-Star game in Lubbock.
Encinias earned offense player of the Greenbelt Bowl game throwing for a touchdown, running two yards for the opening touchdown and completing more than 200 yards passing.
Another North highlight was the Childress connection of quarterback Luke Darter scrambling around and finding running back Bo Lott delighting the home crowd for a 7-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter pretty much sealing the win.
This game at time certainly looked like as an All-Star game at times with lots of entertaining plays, big hits and players like Rigdon showing their skills.
It also had that All-Star flavor of having just a few practices together as three interceptions were thrown in a span of 88 seconds off the game clock.
Those miscues hurt the South more than the North as the North defensive front put heavy pressure on South quarterback’s Dylan Meyer of Iowa Park and Hadley Allred of of Perryton.
But what made this night unique.
A large crowd showed up, partly because Saturday was the first game played on the new turf at Fair Park Stadium and Johnston was on the sidelines.
Johnston retired in 2002 after 35 years of guiding Childress compiling one of the greatest coaching records in Texas high school football history at 315-93-8. During the decade of the 1970s no football team in Texas won more games than those Charlie Johnston-coached Bobcats.
“Coach Charlie” as he known around Childress, was the head coach for the North, the exact way Childress head football coach Jason Sims wanted it.
After all, Sims played for Coach Charlie and had a say in why the new field has written on it in two places “Charlie Johnston Field.”
‘I would have loved to have coached with Coach Charlie when I was a young coach,” Sims said. “Anybody that grows up in Childress would want to be involved with Coach Charlie in some way and I never got to do that. When we learned the junior college coaches couldn’t be here somebody said you ought to get Coach Charlie. I was on the phone giving him my sells pitch and he said year I’ve been fired up. Coach with him this week I’ve been a kid in a candy story. I feel like I am 17-year-old.
“I know what this community thinks of Coach Charlie. He’s a local treasure to us.”
Anybody who watched Johnston coach Saturday had to treasure the moments.
There he was pacing the sidelines as if he was a young pup of a coach at Childress, minus the chewing a piece of grass since the new field is artificial.
There he was across the hash marks and on the field questioning a call by an official. And there he was pumping up the unsung lineman while they took break.
“It means everything for us to have played this first game knowing the field is named after him,” Rigdon said. “Coach Sims talked to us about it. Knowing we got him win it’s a great feeling walking away from here knowing we did that for him.”
And, yes, there he was fighting back a tear after the game.
“I never even looked at the places where my name is on the field because it doesn’t matter,” Johnston said. “There are going to be a lot of kids playing on this field stomping on it and hitting it. Some day not so far from now they are going to have to explain who Charlie Johnston was. They are going to have to say he was that little short guy who used to coach at Childress.”
And what a coach.
That was still obvious Saturday night.
68th Annual Greenbelt Bowl
Fair Park Stadium, Childress
North 0 13 6 0 - 19
South 0 3 6 0 - 9
N-Zack Encinias 2 run (Jordan Villalobos kick)
N-Dalton Rigdon 50 pass from Encinias (kick failed)
S- Dylan Meyer 31-ayrd field goal
N-Bo Lott 7 pass from Luke Darter (pass failed)
S-Willie Phillips 2 run (pass failed)