Five new members were inducted into the Lincoln County Sports Hall of Fame at Saturday night’s annual banquet at the James W. Warren Citizen Center in Lincolnton.
Ernie Boger, Lanny Ford, Shirley Michael Hartley, Chris Matile and George Smith made up the LCSHOF Class of 2019.
Saturday night’s event was an evening of gratitude, thankfulness and emotional acceptance speeches from three of the inductees and the son of another.
Lanny Ford, a former football standout at West Lincoln High School who signed with Clemson in the late seventies talked passionately about the learning experiences from many of his former coaches, not only on the field, but in life lessons as well.
Ford lettered three times in football for the Rebels, as well as three times in track & field, twice in wrestling and once in tennis. As a senior, Ford participated in the East-West All-Star football game, and was the first West Lincoln player to play in the Shrine Bowl.
After suffering a back injury at Clemson that cut his career short, Ford coached at the high school level, including starting up the Highland Tech program. He has spent the last 20 years working in broadcasting, doing high school and college sports, along with a daily sports talk show.
Mike Gurley accepted for his mother, Shirley Michael Hartley, who was unable to attend due to health reasons. Gurley, who has won state basketball championships as head coach at both Lexington and West Rowan High Schools, told stories about his mother’s intensity and competitiveness. He spoke with passion about his middle name being Michael, and getting those traits from his mom.
Hartley was a starting guard on Jack Kiser’s Lincolnton women’s basketball teams that won 75 straight games in the mid fifties, and played in two state championship games. Her son spoke of her dedication and being the ultimate team player, while also working daily on the family farm.
East Lincoln head baseball coach Chris Matile brought emotion to the podium when he talked about the people in his life that helped him become the coach and the person that he is today. His acceptance speech became very emotional when he spoke of his dad working with him regularly, and the loss of his mom two years ago.
Since he became the leader of the Mustangs baseball program, Matile has led the team to 11 playoff appearances, 6 conference championships and the 2011 2A Western Regional runner-up. He has coached over 40 all-conference players at East Lincoln, and has had close to 30 players go on to play at the collegiate level. Matile is also very active in youth athletics at East Lincoln Optimist.
Longtime Lincolnton Wolves supporter and public address announcer George Smith was the last 2019 inductee to speak, and also showed plenty of emotion. He worked in the LHS press box calling football games for 40 years, mostly with friend Max Garner.
Smith was instrumental in helping raise funds for the Richard K. Smith press box at Lincolnton’s Memorial Stadium, and construction of “The Wall” and “Wolves Walk” where donors and contributors are recognized.
Smith, who was a longtime volunteer at LHS and earning Volunteer of the Year five times, spoke with passion when he talked about working with Special Olympics, and was very emotional about meeting his wife Judy at a Lincolnton Cardinals baseball game at the old Love Field in Lincolnton.
The late Ernie Boger was also inducted in this year’s class. Boger, who was the co-owner of Boger & Crawford Mills, provided transportation, supplies and financial support to construct athletic fields, tennis courts and playgrounds for youth in the community.
Boger donated anonymously in many ways, and helped provide Christmas gifts for many years to children that might not otherwise receive them. Betty Ross, Lincoln County’s first recreation director, was always especially thankful for Boger’s support.
Prior to the inductions, the male and female athletes of the year from each Lincoln County high school were recognized and awarded a medal for their achievements.
Those athletes were East Lincoln’s Sidney Dollar and Michaela Gammon, Lincoln Charter’s Megan Minaudo and Parker Powell, Lincolnton’s Zack Smith and Emily Shain, North Lincoln’s Olivia Correa and Brian Risse and West Lincoln’s Seth Willis and Kinsley Gilmore.