Last updated: December 31. 2013 3:38PM - 3529 Views
By - jlinville@civitasmedia.com

Football head coach Kelly Holder, seen with wife Jill receiving the Educational Distinction of Honor from Superintendent Dr. Greg Little, is now the top coach in Bear history in winning percentage.
Football head coach Kelly Holder, seen with wife Jill receiving the Educational Distinction of Honor from Superintendent Dr. Greg Little, is now the top coach in Bear history in winning percentage.
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Mount Airy coach Kelly Holder is now the winningest leader in the long history of the Bears’ football program, according to the team’s self-appointed historian.

Missing from the 1966 season were the results of a game against Graham, which the Bears lost 14-6.

This game happened during the coaching reign of Alex Gibbs, who is now retired as an NFL offensive line coach.

Gibbs won 26 games during his three years as Mount Airy’s head coach (1966-68) before leaving to become an assistant coach at Duke University.

With a 26-6-2 record, Gibbs had a winning percentage of 76.47 percent, leaving him first in school history for coaches with more than one season at the school.

Finding that one missing score changed Gibbs’ winning rate to 74.29 percent, which is slightly below Holder’s current percentage of 74.63.

Holder has a record of 150-51 over his time at Mount Airy. Including his years with Surry Central, he has a career mark of 173-75.

His 150 wins ranks him third all-time with the Bears. Wallace Shelton, after whom the stadium is named, had 163 wins in his time up to 1956 and a winning percentage of 69.7.

Jerry Hollingsworth coached from 1969-90 and racked up 177 wins and a winning percentage of 71.4.

Over the past 14 years, Holder has averaged 10 wins a season. At that rate, he could catch Hollingsworth for first in wins late in the 2016 season.


He calls himself Daddy Doug, the Bears historian.

Doug McDaniel (Class of 1973) is more than that. He is the Granite Bears version of “Bones” the TV show; a forensic anthropologist, only working with incomplete records instead of human remains.

How could a high school program lose track of a football game from 1966? A better question would be how the school knows as much as it does about its past.

So much history was destroyed when the school gym burned down decades ago, said McDaniel.

Like a lot of schools, Mount Airy had trophy cases with trophies, newspaper clippings and yearbook photos commemmorating the history of sports, dating back to the first athletic association formed in 1918.

McDaniel said he has pieced together almost all of the Bears’ football history, but so much more is missing from this sport and the others.

He has spent hundreds of hours researching the years. He pores over microfilm at the public library from both The News and the defunct Times. He sits at his computer going over online newspaper archives. He asks people about old yearbooks that might contain some information that would help.

The Statesville Landmark and Winston-Salem Journal also have been helpful in tracking down scores.

Now living out of state, McDaniel said he spent a lot of time at the Mount Airy Public Library while visiting relatives over Thanksgiving.

“I always wondered how we won the conference in 1966 and never went to the playoffs,” he said. “Well, we did and lost to Graham in the first round 14-6.”

Some of the records the high school did have after the fire were inaccurate, he found. Wallace Shelton was credited for coaching in 1934, but he didn’t take over the team until 1935. Some of the early coaches only had a last name listed, and he had to research to find their first names.

From what he can find from his many sources, McDaniel said the high school started a basketball program in 1918.

The school didn’t have a gym, so the court was built outdoors. A local doctor named Hollingsworth (related to Jerry?) donated the poles that held up the baskets.

Then baseball began in the spring of 1922 and football in the fall of that year.

D.N. Murph coached the football team the first two years, but McDaniel has no idea what the record was either season.

Newspapers have come a long way over the decades, too, he noted. Some articles would simply congratulate the team for a nice win and have nothing at all about the game itself.

Yearbooks often had the results of each game listed, but from 1923 to 1934, McDaniel has only found books for 1929 and 1930. Those had results for the team from the fall of 1928 and 1929, so he knows the team went 5-2-1 and 7-2-1 in those two seasons.

During World War II, the newspapers had more important things to write about than sports, he said. He was able to find final records for the season, but he doesn’t know what the individual scores were.

He hopes that somewhere in Mount Airy there are residents who have yearbooks for those years: 1923-34 and 1944-46.

In the early days of the football program, Statesville was probably Mount Airy’s first rival, said McDaniel. Then the Bears had several good home-and-away series with Reidsville until a riot broke out.

In those days, there were no stadiums. There was no chainlink fence around the perimeter, and fans often crowded right up to the sidelines. Fans sometimes criticized or ridiculed players, and the players would react aggressively in the heat of battle. Fights were pretty common, he said.

From his own childhood and high school days, McDaniel remembers coaches Gibbs and Hollingsworth.

“Alex Gibbs was a brilliant coach and a bigger motivator, just awesome,” he said.

“Coach Hollingsworth was the anchor to sustainability and put the Bears on solid ground for years to come. If he could have played in a lower classification, there is no telling what we could have accomplished.”

As for today, he said, “Coach Holder has put us as a state contender every year and we have seen some of our best football.”

Anyone with information that could help Doug McDaniel in his research, can reach him by e-mail at daddydoug@earthlink.net.

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