Former East Bladen football coach Bob Lewis was at Leinwands on Saturday to sign copies of his autobiography “My Story.” The book contains Lewis’ recollections from his 42 years of coaching varsity football that included stops at East Bladen, Pender, Clinton, Harrells Christian and Whiteville.
Among the people who turned out for the event Saturday was the crew who used to work in the press box at East Bladen. Pictured with Lewis, who is seated, from left, are Robert G. Hester, Jim McLaney, Chicky Robbins, Lyn Shaw and Ricky Leinwand.
Lewis, a native of Burgaw, began his coaching career with a middle school job in Clinton before moving to the varsity level at East Bladen in 1972. He remained there through 1979 before leaving to take the head football job at Pender.
Lewis’ Cougars were known for never being out of a game no matter how late. East Bladen trailed Jamestown Ragsdale 16-0 in the 1973 championship game before rallying to tie the game 16-16. An even more incredible rally occurred when the Cougars trailed rival Bladenboro 18-0 late in the final quarter but came back to win 19-18.
After 6 seasons at Pender Lewis took an assistant coaching job at Clinton on Coach Bobby Robinson’s staff in 1986. When Robinson retired Lewis took over the reins of the Dark Horses in 1988 where he won state championships in 1990, 1996, 1997 and 2001.
Lewis also coached at Whiteville and Harrells Christian where he won his sixth state championship in 2005 in the 8-man division of the NCISAA.
With 6 state championships, 3 more state runners-up and 333 wins, Lewis was inducted into the NCHSAA Hall of Fame as a member of the ‘Class of 2018’ in April 2019.
Three of Lewis’ players at Clinton — Jerris McPhail, Leonard Henry and Willie Parker -– went on to play in the National Football League.
The book includes many names that will be familiar to Friday night football fans. Recollections of coaching battles against Lewis’ friend Jack Holley and surely stories of some of those many comebacks at East Bladen and at Clinton.