Aug. 28, 1987. The Garner Trojans were about to embark on what would become the most memorable football season in school history.
Senior running back Anthony Barbour and his teammates, all led by head coach Hal Stewart, were in the locker room in Durham preparing for the season opener. They ended up beating Durham High School that night 61-0.
That sparked what would become a perfect season.
Garner marched through the regular season and Cap 9 Conference, shutting out teams like Durham, Clayton, Cary, Triton and Broughton.
The Trojans started the season 3-0, outscoring their first three opponents 121-0. The on Sept. 18, 1987, Garner traveled to North Raleigh to take on rival Millbrook. It was a game for the ages, but Garner managed to pull out a 36-28 win over the Wildcats. It was the last - and only - close game of the regular season for the Trojans.
After winning the conference championship, Garner entered the 4-A state playoffs on Nov. 6. The first round home game against the Person Rockets was much like the regular season. The Trojans rolled to a 48-13 win.
With a few snowflakes falling on Nov. 13, Garner beat Pinecrest at home in the second round of the playoffs, 28-8.
From that point on though the games were down to the wire.
On Nov. 20, Garner traveled south to Richmond County to take on the Raiders. Trailing 24-21 in the fourth quarter, Richmond's defense was called for a pass interference, and on the next play Garner wide receiver Robert Hinton caught the game winning touchdown in the right corner of the end zone, lifting the Trojans to a 28-24 win.
It was on to the Eastern Regional Final.
On Nov. 27, the Trojans traveled to Durham County Stadium to take on the Northern Durham Knights, led by head coach Ken Browning, and again the Trojans came out on top. Garner was headed to the state championship with a 20-17 win over Northern.
Over 11,000 people took in the Eastern Regional Final that night.
Garner met Harding in the state championship game. Harding, out of Charlotte, had the benefit of playing the state championship in Charlotte. No one gave Garner a chance to win it - the players knew, the fans knew it, and Hal Stewart knew it.
"We've been talked about like dogs all week in the paper by these city slickers from Charlotte," Stewart told his team before taking the field. "Yeah, we're dogs. We're proud to dogs. We're proud to be Garner rednecks."
Stewart estimated over 10,000 people made the trip to Charlotte to support the Trojans.
"They came down here for one reason," Stewart told his players. "To be that 12th man on the field, the 12th man that we've had the whole playoffs. And we ain't going to disappoint ourselves, and we ain't going to disappoint them because in two hours time we're carrying the big apple back to Garner."
And they did.
The first play from scrimmage set the tone for the game. Anthony Barbour, who went on to play at NC State, broke a 60 yard touchdown run. He posted 264-yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries that game as Garner defeated Harding 40-21 to bring the state championship back to Garner and back to Wake County.
1987. 24 years ago. That was the last time a Wake County team won the state championship, and now the Trojans have a chance to do it again.
On Dec. 3, 1987, Garner won its first football state championship. On Dec. 3, 2011, the Trojans will go for their second.
Nick Stevens, HighSchoolOT.com
GARNER TROJANS FOOTBALL 1987
Aug. 28 - Garner @ Durham (W, 61-0)
Sept. 3 - Clayton @ Garner (W, 35-0)
Sept. 11 - Cary @ Garner (W, 25-0)
Sept. 18 - Garner @ Millbrook (W, 36-28)
Sept. 25 - Triton @ Garner (W, 41-0)
Oct. 2 - Athens Drive @ Garner (W, 46-16)
Oct. 9 - Smithfield-Selma @ Garner (W, 49-13)
Oct. 15 - Sanderson @ Garner (W, 48-7)
Oct. 23 - Garner @ Enloe (W, 44-6)
Oct. 30 - Garner @ Broughton (W, 35-0)
Nov. 6 - Person @ Garner (W, 48-13)
Nov. 13 - Pinecrest @ Garner (W, 28-8)
Nov. 27 - Garner @ Northern Durham (W, 20-17)