Simeon Stadium proves perfect All-Star site
Finally, a construction project that works in High Point Central’s favor.
Let me explain.
The seemingly never-ending work on Central’s gym the past couple of years turned multiple Bison teams into nomads, wandering from place to place in search of an available court or wrestling mat.
Later this month, continuing construction at Jamieson Stadium in Greensboro will result in High Point’s Simeon Stadium serving as the site for the East-West All-Star football game.
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. on July 24. A fireworks show is planned at halftime.
The East-West All-Stars played their first 64 games at the stadium later named for Grimsley coaching legend Bob Jamieson, which is appropriate because he was a driving force in the creation and expansion of the North Carolina Coaches Association.
That group is responsible for the East-West All-Star basketball, soccer and football games held each summer.
But A.J. Simeon, the High Point High School (now High Point Central) legendary coach and administrator, was also instrumental in the formative years of the NCCA.
Simeon served as NCCA president in 1951 and twice coached in the East-West All-Star basketball games.
While Simeon is perhaps best known for his basketball prowess with the Bison — three state titles, five state runnerup finishes, nine conference crowns and more than 480 wins — he was also a terrific football coach.
Simeon led High Point to two state runnerup finishes in football and guided North Carolina to victory over South Carolina in the 1949 Shrine Bowl.
He knew his way around the gridiron.
And it’s at Simeon Stadium that I had the pleasure of spending many football Friday nights with the Coach and his wonderful wife, Bessie.
Before I continue, let me give a brief summary of Simeon’s amazing career that earned him spots in the North Carolina and Guilford County Sports Halls of Fame.
Simeon was born in Pennsylvania in 1910. He was a star athlete at High Point College, where he graduated in 1933.
Following a brief stint at Kernersville High School, Simeon came to High Point High in 1936.
Between 1936 and 1966, Simeon coached football, basketball, baseball, golf and track at various times.
He stepped away from coaching in 1966 and served as High Point City Schools athletic director from 1968-76.
Simeon retired in 1976, but remained a staple in the press box at the stadium that bears his name for many years.
Simeon Stadium opened in 1974 and has served as the home field for Central and T.W. Andrews ever since.
Coach Simeon and his wife played no favorites in retirement. They often attended football games involving both schools.
I met the Simeons for the first time at a prep football game in 1990.
I don’t recall who was playing, but I’ll never forget feeling a little nervous and a lot in awe when I sat down next to Coach Simeon before kickoff.
We talked a little as the contest wore on, and at halftime, Coach Simeon grabbed my arm.
“Young man, I’m retired,” he said with a smile. “You don’t have to keep calling me sir.”
I paused for a moment.
“Well, I’m a rookie reporter sitting next to the man they named the stadium after,” I said. “I’d have to have an ego bigger than Texas to call you anything but sir.”
Coach Simeon grinned.
From that moment on, the ice was broken.
I always welcomed the chance to cover games at Simeon Stadium and relished the opportunity to watch with the Simeons.
Whenever Coach Simeon was there, former players, students, colleagues and friends flocked to the press box to say hello or update him on how things were going.
It was a pleasure to see someone so admired and respected up close like that.
And the man never stopped being a great coach.
It was late in the first quarter of a scoreless game between Andrews and I believe Greensboro Smith.
The visitors faced fourth and one at their 49.
Rather than punt, they opted to go for it.
Coach Simeon shook his head and turned to me.
“You never go for it on your side of the 50 so early in a game,” he said sternly. “You watch, T. Wingate will stop them and score a touchdown on the next possession. Their boys will be deflated and the game will be over.”
Sure enough, the Red Raiders held, scored a few plays later and never looked back en route to a big win.
In his later years, Coach Simeon’s hearing and eyesight began to fade. But his wife proved an outstanding spotter.
More than once, I asked Mrs. Simeon if she saw who caused a fumble, tipped a pass or made a key play.
She came through every time.
In his final years, poor health prevented Coach Simeon from attending games. The Simeons were sorely missed.
Mrs. Simeon passed away in August of 2004. Coach Simeon left us on Dec. 10 of that year.
But the man’s legacy and the genuine goodness of this special couple will never leave us.
That’s something to celebrate at this year’s East-West All-Star football game — and always.