Tuesday, 05 November 2019 22:30

Down and Denson: Raiders unveil new digital down marker

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The Raider football program had a new LED down marker donated by Amy Denson Harris last month. The Raider football program had a new LED down marker donated by Amy Denson Harris last month. Photo courtesy of Richmond Raider football.

ROCKINGHAM — It’s been a season full of upgrades for the Richmond Senior High School football program, and the latest addition made its appearance the past two home games.


If fans sitting in the home stands looked closely enough at the visitor’s sideline, they would have noticed the Raiders’ new digital LED down marker moving up and down the field with the flow of play. 

The Fisher brand down marker is the most recent add on to Richmond’s facilities, joining the MUSCO LED lighting system that has impressed fans from all across the state, along with the 24 Riddell SpeedFlex helmets won in the Carolina Panthers’ “Wear It Like A Pro Contest.”

Touted as the “best chain crew in all of North Carolina” by public address announcer Jim Butler, Richmond’s chain gang is led by longtime football coach and Raider staple Dale Denson. A 1971 graduate of Rohanen High School, Denson has been in charge of the sidelines the past six seasons.

The yard marker was a donation to the football program by Denson’s daughter, Amy Denson Harris, and her husband Dr. William Harris. A 2003 graduate of Richmond, Harris explained Raider football has “always been a family affair” in her home growing up. 

Her older brother Brad, who serves as Richmond’s offensive coordinator, was a two-time state championship quarterback for the Raiders in 1997 and 1998. 

“My dad coached for many years, and when he retired, he started doing the chain crew,” Harris explained. “I thought (the down marker) was just something they might enjoy.

“I’m an avid Tar Heel fan and my husband and I were at a game recently and we noticed one there,” she added. “I thought ‘wow, that’s really cool,’ and did a little research before I talked to the (Richmond) athletic department.”

For Dale Denson, the new digital equipment was a welcomed surprise.

“I love it,” Denson smiled of the new marker. “The last one we had was a sliding one and we had that for eight or nine years and it got to the point we really needed a new one. It’s a one-button deal and it has bright lights for day time and darker lights for evening games. It definitely beats the old one we had.

“Amy asked me about it and I said ‘yeah, it would be great to have,’” he added. “I mentioned it to Jim (Butler) and Rob (Ransom) and they said it would be a great addition. I think it really adds to our light system and new helmets. Not many high schools have one and the fans are really amazed.” 

Patrolling the sidelines and making sure the sticks are right are Denson, Charlie Davis, Wilbur Gibson, Chad Taylor and Harold Tedder. Reserves on the crew include Tommy King and Ricky Treadway.

Dale Denson (left) and Brad Denson (right) with the new LED down marker.

Football runs deep in Denson’s timeline, with his career as a football coach beginning in 1971 as a recreation coach while attending Pembroke State University (now UNC-Pembroke). He was a local educator for 35 years where he spent stints at several schools across Richmond County, most notably Rohanen and Hamlet junior high schools and Richmond.

Out of college, Denson spent a decade at Rohanen Junior High, coaching football and basketball all 10 years. He also served as the baseball and track coach for the latter part of his tenure.

His most successful run as a head coach was at Hamlet Junior High, where he led the Red Rams’ football team to a 69-1 record and 10 consecutive conference titles. During that time, he also coached against Brad Denson, who was then a player at Rockingham Junior High.

To close out his career, Denson became a familiar face on the sidelines at Richmond from 1994 to 2005. He served under three head coaches, Hal Shuler, Daryl Barnes and Ed Emory in a variety of roles, including running back and wide receiver coach. Denson also coached alongside future head coach Paul Hoggard, who was the offensive line coach at the turn of the millennium.

“I had a good run at Richmond,” Denson recalled. “One of the goals was to be there for when Brad was the starting quarterback and it was really cool to share the ‘97 and ‘98 state championships with him.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of kids over the years, and I don’t go anywhere I don’t see them,” he added. “It never gets old hearing them holler “hey coach,” and that helped me out to be a better person in the long run.”

Harris echoed her father’s sentiments of Raider football running deep in her family’s bloodline, and noted she and her husband, a graduate of Purnell Swett High School, and children attend Richmond games regularly. 

She said she still remembers how the late 90s was “a really fun time for our family,” and recalled how the community support of that era of Raider football is making flashes with the fans and the Richmond teams of the past couple seasons.

Harris credited current head coach Bryan Till for “doing a great job” of rekindling that connection between the two.

“Our family dinners always revolved around football,” Harris recalled. “My mom, Pam, has been awesome for so many years. We always had family dinners but it was after football practice.

“It’s really cool to still see my dad involved, especially with Brad coaching, too,” she added. “My dad really gets to know those players, and he has a deep relationship with lots of people. He cares about the well being of the kids, and wants them to be good citizens, adults and fathers.”

As the undefeated No. 1 Raiders (10-0, 6-0 SAC) gear up for rivalry week against No. 4 Scotland High School (9-1, 5-1 SAC), both Denson and Harris said they’re looking forward to cheering on the Raiders in the playoffs and hopefully a 2019 4AA state championship.

“I’ve had a good wife that stayed behind me all these years,” Denson closed. “She’s always supported us. And now I’m ready to see the Raiders make a run in the playoffs.”

Last modified on Wednesday, 06 November 2019 09:01
Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

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