They don’t make them like Cline everyday
CANTON — If I were to ask you what you remember about a season, a team, a player, or a school, what would you say?
If those stories and thoughts are truly complete, and have anything to do with Pisgah, there is a name that would invariably work its way into any, or all, of those thoughts and conversations.
It isn’t necessarily the name of a quarterback who threw for 3,000 yards or a shooter who was 50 percent from the three-point line or a slugger who hit .480 or a wrestler who was undefeated.
It would be the name of an extraordinaire man who Pisgah fans know as “Doc Cline.”
In good times and in bad, in a undefeated season or a winless one, regardless if everyone was jumping on the bandwagon or leaping off, Al Cline has always has been there.
As a child, I ran the halls of Pisgah High School. My father was principal and Pisgah was his school.
In those days, things weren’t quite the same. It was the age before “school accountability” and test scores took a back seat to school culture and in many ways the purest senses of what was right and true.
Pisgah, as did Tuscola, had a sense of community and depth. The place was tied deeply to its community and in my mind, only the paper mill rivals Pisgah in terms of its historic overall significance in defining who we are as a people in Eastern Haywood County.
That doesn’t happen accidentally.
Like many other things, it takes the right people.
In 1954, Dr. Al Cline graduated from UNC Dental School. Following in his father’s footsteps, he was part of the first graduating class there and came home to serve his larger community family. In 1955, he began a practice that would last into the new millennia and Pisgah’s student athletes were some of his first patients.
At that time, mouth appliances for sports was not common place. In fact, it has not been long that players began to wear protective head gear much less guards for teeth. He painstakingly created hundreds upon hundreds of these dental appliances for Pisgah’s football and other players for decades.
He even answered the call from rival Enka and Owen coaches when they inquired about the same devices for their players.
While doing that, he also served on the first commission of student athletics in Haywood County after the consolidation of 1966. He has attended games and practices for more than five decades as the Black Bears’ oral surgeon and dentist, served on almost every committee ever created at Pisgah and in Canton and rarely missed an event.
It is rare that you won’t find Cline at an athletic or community event. Whether it’s a Friday or Thursday night football game, a girls softball game, a Saturday morning coach’s show or meeting of the Activities Committee, Cline is there.
He has donated countless dollars and time to the school’s children while supporting players, coaches, teachers, parents and administrators in the process.
“Doc Cline” was instrumental in the decision process that brought both Pisgah and Tuscola two of the most revered football stadiums in North Carolina and my father would tell you that without his help, it would have made his job much tougher.
For me, Cline was always there and of comfort to what we were doing on the playing fields. I would see him at sporting events, at awards school programs, in local establishments or simply driving around town in his Jeep with the Pisgah “Power P” tag on the front.
There is something comforting about his presence.
When you see him out at a game or event, it almost tells you that you are in indeed in the right place.
After a half century of his unconditional support, Cline is still with us and still showing up.
Regardless of the outcome, his presence just makes us feel good.
So, with that said, it was my honor to help present him with the inaugural Dr. Al Cline Service Award for athletics at Pisgah High School several weeks ago.
From hence forth, the Pisgah Activities and Booster Club will present one recipient each year with the award that stands for service, sacrifice and support of Pisgah High School and her athletes over the course of many years.
In Cline’s case, it has been a lifetime and I couldn’t think of anyone better than “Doc” to name the award after.
It’s my hope to witness this presentation each year going forward as there are so many names that will be deservingly recognized.
But I have to say, I know we’ve gotten the first one right.