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Mason: Community's football pride doesn't go unnoticed by Tarboro's Craddock

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Tarboro High School head varsity football coach Jeff Craddock reacts during the Todd Gurley M.A.D.E. Football ProCamp in April. Craddock on Thursday spoke to the rotary club in town about the upcoming football season.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Friday, August 9, 2019

I received a phone call earlier this week from a Tarboro High School football fan.

The man introduced himself as Al Hull, a 1961 Tarboro graduate and member of the rotary club in town. Al can remember back to his playing days and recall the round to which his Vikings advanced during his senior season in 1960 — the third round of those playoffs. He even remembers the score of the Rocky Mount game that season, 33-13.

Al still follows the Vikings and can be found near the sideline at just about every game, home or away.

Our conversation began because Al wanted to invite me to the rotary club’s weekly luncheon on Thursday held at The Fountains at the Albemarle retirement community. The club had a special guest lineup up, Tarboro football coach Jeff Craddock.

“I’ve been in the rotary club forever,” Al explained, “long before Jeff was ever coaching. But every year now he comes by and speaks. He’ll be talking about the upcoming season.”

Craddock estimates that he’s been speaking at the club for about 15 years, and usually does so twice a year — once before the season, and another after the campaign for a wrap-up later on in the year.

A buffet-style lunch was served on a long table in the back of the room. Large hunks of meat were prepared, along with several side dishes and slices pie for dessert. A joke was made that it was the first time in years where fried chicken wasn’t served.

About 50 people were in attendance during the lunchtime event, which kicked off with a few opening announcements. The club recognized a pair of birthdays along with a wedding anniversary, then dived into a ‘This Date in History’ segment which noted several memorable events that happened on August 8 across history.

Thomas Edison received a patent for the mimeograph in 1876, President Truman signed the United Nations Charter in 1945, and the Chicago Cubs played their first night game.

Does anybody know the year the lights first turned on at Wrigley Field?

Craddock brought along three members of his coaching staff, and it was defensive coordinator Andrew Harding who spoke up. Harding, a Cubs fan, knew the answer in a flash.

“Nineteen eighty eight,” he said.

Correct.

Next, it was Craddock’s floor. The main event.

The longtime Vikings coach, who is entering his 15th season as the head man and 24th overall, gave an update on his family and spoke about having plans to coach at least through his youngest son’s high school career (six more seasons).

Later, the room was open to questions. Some wanted to know about the Vikings’ quarterback situation and if Kimani McDaniels is returning (he is). Another wondered if the recruiting profiles have picked up for any players on the team (it has), while another was interested in the former Vikings now playing in the NFL.

But the main attention was focused on the high school team which opens its season on Aug. 23 at home against Rocky Mount High. The Vikings are coming off back-to-back state championships, and a first-week matchup with the neighboring town’s Class 3-A school has the community abuzz.

And after Thursday, it’s safe to say there’s plenty of members in the community who feel pride when it comes to Vikings. And that doesn’t go unnoticed by Craddock.