Bill Kirby Jr.: A moving evening for “the kid” of Hollywood Heights

By Bill Kirby Jr. | Journalist

It was a joyful weekend for the former students of Seventy-first High School, Classes of 1971 and 1972.

And for Marshall Lovett, a memorable 50th reunion.

“I can’t wait to be there,” said Lovett, 68, in anticipation of being with former classmates and those football teammates who were part of the 1970 Falcon team that beat Northern Durham 14-12 in the NC final. High School Athletic Association East 3-A State Showdown, where Lovett’s two-point conversion after Anzie Adams’ touchdown led coach Jim Boyette’s Falcons to the title.

Lovett has been legally blind since 2000, when meningitis burned the retina of his eyes while living in New York.

“I didn’t know I was sick,” says Lovett. “They said it was something bacterial. I went to bed one night and the next morning I couldn’t see. I was in a nursing home for five years and they didn’t think I was going to make it.

Even though he’s blind, Lovett still sees in his mind that night in 1970 when his catch in the end zone as a junior wide receiver was the catalyst for a state championship.

“I grabbed the winning two points from Horace Whitaker, God bless his soul,” he said of Whitaker, the Falcon quarterback who died at 66 on Nov. 11, 2021. “It was fantastic. There were about three Northern Durham players around Horace. I said, ‘I have to catch this.’ It was great to grab the winning two points.

Boyette also remembers.

“How can you go out and beat four state-ranked teams,” says the 80-year-old retired coach. “And we did. I was so happy for the kids because they worked so hard. And so happy for the Fayetteville community as a whole because of her support, and for the community of Seventy-One. There is sadness because we have lost players along the way. The people who were instrumental in this victory.

But it was a team from 1970, he recalls, that excelled academically, athletically and with unprecedented school spirit.

As for Lovett, says Boyette, he was a natural athlete and leader.

“He loved the game and he was a competitor,” says Boyette, who lives in Rock Hill, South Carolina. “You can’t denounce his athletic ability. He had a moxie about him. He was a charismatic baseball player. You don’t stray too far from special memories. Marshall is always someone who will lift your spirits. He was always raising them to make us better. It was a way of life for him.

Charles Babb, wide receivers and defensive backs coach, remembers the game as a “nail biter” and Lovett’s football skills.

“He anticipated well,” Babb said. “We had good athletes to work with and they were ready to play as a team. I was excited and nervous. It was my first year coaching with Nathan Pittman and Boyette’s first as a head coach. We had the kids who believed they weren’t supposed to get beat up, and we had the kids who believed it.

Scholar Athlete at Campbell

Lovett would take his athletic talents to the basketball courts under Babb, where Lovett was a starting point guard averaging 17.7 points per game as senior captain of the team that won the regular season and tournament title , the district crown and the Holiday Classic basketball tournament. The Falcons finished 21-7. Lovett was the name of the whole county.

Basketball was also a natural sport for Lovett. He remembers growing up in the Hollywood Heights neighborhood shooting hoops in his backyard and on the grounds of Lewis Chapel Elementary School and Anne Chesnutt High School.

“I would have hated keeping him and I would have hated him keeping me,” says Babb, 77. “I talked to Norm Sloan about him at NC State. I even called John Wooden at UCLA. Marshall could have played at UCLA and anywhere. Danny Roberts at Campbell and I were good friends and he saw Marshall play.

Roberts was building a National Intercollegiate Athletic Association powerhouse in Buies Creek.

“Campbell was my last chance to get a full scholarship,” says Lovett. “I had a chance at NC State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But Campbell taught me more about the game.”

He remembers playing with “great players” at Campbell, including Sam Staggers, Danny Yates, Andrew Broadie, Wayne Sanford, Fred Dunlap, James McLean and Billy Ellington.

Lovett also left his mark.

He led the Camels to a 24-6 record in the 1974-75 season and a 23-4 record in his senior year, scoring 1,064 career points and averaging 13.9 points and five steals per game. He was named Outstanding Male Athlete in 1976 and was selected to the NAIA All American Third Team.

When Lovett was not playing on the basketball court, he participated in track and field and still holds the record of 6-foot-6 in the high jump. After graduating, Lovett tried out with the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons, all of the National Basketball Association.

“He’s the best goalkeeper I’ve ever had,” said Roberts, 88. “His instincts, you couldn’t teach him. And he had good leadership. Marshall was just a great athlete. Once he jumped high over six feet. He wasn’t just a great basketball player, he was just a great athlete.

After his athletic career, Lovett earned a degree in Respiratory Therapy from Durham Technical Community College and later worked at Duke Medical Center and Wake Medical Center in Raleigh before moving in 1989 to New York City.

Her dream come true

Saturday was special for the classes of 1971 and 1972, and for the state champion football team of 1970. And all the more special for Lovett, who has so long dreamed of one day being inducted into the Hall of Fame. sporting fame from his alma mater.

On Saturday, Campbell University Associate Athletic Director Stan Cole inducted Lovett into the Campbell University Athletic Hall of Fame at the meeting held at the Ramada by Wyndham Ballroom on Owen Drive. Lovett, with his former coach Danny Roberts by his side, became the 81st inductee at the sanctuary.

The moment was tender.

The moment was moving.

On hand were Jim Boyette, Charles Babb and 21 members of the 1970 State Championship football team, including Jerry Battazzo, Chris Cawthon, William Wayne Davies, Ken Harrington, Greg Killingsworth, Lenny Plummer, Anzavino Ollari Adams, Bob Desoto, Robert Foster, Greg Frey, Gary Hammond, John McMillan, Gary Pellom, Joey Sanders, Rick Shupe, Sherman Sumpter, Phil Armfield, Jack Pittman, David Ramsey and athletic trainer Barry McNeill and teammate and friend of childhood Tim Heath, who delivered a moving commentary on Lovett.

“She’s a very special person we’re honoring tonight,” Heath would say. “He was humble then, and humble now. He doesn’t complain. He always uplifts everyone.

Family members were seated nearby, including niece Robin Fortner, who hugged her uncle.

“It’s an honor for us to be here,” said Fortner, 50, a retired sailor. “My grandma always kept a picture of him playing basketball. You made us proud. I’m as proud of him as he could ever be of me. And I know,” she said. to his uncle, mom and grandma look down.

Lovett bottled up her tears and her own emotions.

“It was special”, he will say later. “I can’t describe it. I was fighting back tears, and I still am.

Epilogue

High school reunions are those special moments when men and women come together to relive their youthful days. To remember Friday night football matches and basketball competitions. To remember spending time together at The Torch drive-in, junior-senior balls and, of course, for sharing photos of grandkids and even great-grandkids.

On Saturday night, the former Falcons from the classes of 1971 and 1972 were young and in their prime again, and Marshall Lovett, who lives in Springfield, Massachusetts, was among them.

“It’s definitely a night I will always remember,” Lovett said. “I never thought this would happen, and having family here… wow.”

If only he could see the faces of classmates, teammates and coaches was his only regret.

But …

“I felt in my heart”, said Lovett, “their presence”.

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at [email protected] or 910-624-1961.

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Bill Kirby Jr.

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Campbell University Sports Hall of Fame

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