Tip Drill

WEST WILKES RECEIVER Ritchie Greer adjusts his body in midair to catch a pass deflected by North Stokes defensive back Marty Martin on the first play of the fourth quarter of the Blackhawks’ 19-0 win on Halloween weekend in 1987. It was Greer’s first game after missing three weeks with a broken wrist. He was wearing a soft cast to protect the wrist.

A recent story in this newspaper highlighted the work of screenwriter and independent moviemaker Ritchie Greer, who now lives in Los Angeles.

But back in the day, some 30-odd years ago, Greer was on the other side of the camera, the subject of—instead of the creator of—an image.

In the fall of 1987, Greer was a senior wide receiver on the West Wilkes football team, a pass-catcher on a team that didn’t throw that often.

Still, Greer had his moments, among them a diving catch near the goal line in a 9-8 loss to then-3A Forbush in the season’s second week.

And in West Wilkes’ 19-0 win at North Stokes on the day before Halloween, he made one of his more memorable catches, the one in the photo that accompanies this story. It’s significant for a couple of reasons—first, it got the Blackhawks out of a hole near their own goal line; and second, it was his first game and first catch after missing three weeks due to injury.

Here’s how that sequence appeared in the Monday, Nov. 2, 1987, issue of The Journal-Patriot:

“With the lead well in hand, West had only one other thing to test—the right wrist of receiver Ritchie Greer. Greer broke the wrist on the Hawks’ last trip down N.C. 268, in the conference opener at East Surry in late September.

“Greer, who has practiced since Tuesday with his wrist in a soft cast, passed the test on the first play of the fourth quarter. In a third-and-13 situation at the West 14, Greer lined up wide left and ran a slant-in pattern, then broke to the sidelines. (Quarterback Mike) McGuire lofted the ball his way, but (defensive back Marty) Martin, in coverage, got a hand on the pass and tipped it up. Greer adjusted in midair, then caught the ball while falling flat on his back, a 16-yard pickup. And to add insult to Viking injury, (Derek) Lawson, the safety backing up the play, drew a 15-yard penalty for a late hit.”

Wearing orange jerseys and pants—a member of the officiating crew dubbed them “Halloween’s team” before the game—the Blackhawks scored on three of their first four possessions against the then-winless Vikings (North Stokes was a combined 2-18 in 1986 and 1987), getting an 8-yard touchdown run from Chris Parsons and two touchdowns from Andrew Blair.

West Wilkes had shut out Surry Central—which was also winless—the previous week on Homecoming. Combined with a win over North Wilkes, it completed a stretch of three wins in four games.

It was the Blackhawks’ third season as a member of the Northwest Conference, created after the 1985 realignment. West Wilkes had reached the state playoffs in its last year as a member of the Blue Ridge Conference in 1984, but the realignment dropped Blue Ridge members East Wilkes, Elkin, Alleghany, Ashe Central, Beaver Creek and Northwest Ashe into their own conference in the 1A classification. West Wilkes and North Wilkes remained 2A schools, and they joined North Stokes, Surry Central and football powerhouses Starmount, Mount Airy and East Surry in the new Northwest Conference. Starmount, Mount Airy and East Surry had been 3A schools before the realignment.

A week later, the Blackhawks played arguably their best game of the season against conference champion Starmount in Millers Creek. West Wilkes led the Rams 15-12 in the fourth quarter with Starmount facing fourth-and-one from the West Wilkes 48. With the defense keying on running back Reggie Billips—who had a game-high 206 yards—quarterback Brocke Walker faked a handoff and ran a naked bootleg for 34 yards.

Billips scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run with 6:38 to play, and Starmount won 19-15.

The Rams won 44 consecutive conference games over seven seasons after the realignment. The streak ended in Millers Creek with a 28-0 loss to the Blackhawks in 1991.

West Wilkes finished the 1987 season at 5-5 and in a third-place tie in the conference with North Wilkes and East Surry. North Wilkes won a three-way draw to get the final state playoff berth.

It was the best season for the Blackhawks under Tom Jones, who stepped down after the 1989 season. Jones was 15-25 in four seasons at West Wilkes.

Other notable members of the 1987 Blackhawks were Randall Parsons, who would go on to play at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Andy Pierce. Parsons and Pierce were also members of West Wilkes’ state runner-up team in baseball the previous spring.

McGuire, the Blackhawks quarterback, was the son of Jerry McGuire, who coached football at West Wilkes in the late 1960s and who later returned to the school as its principal.

And to bring the story full circle and into the digital age, here’s this bit of irony. Ritchie Greer, a modern filmmaker who doesn’t use film to make films, had his image captured….

Yep. On film.

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