By Brandon Stephens
(Cary, NC) – – Coaching pride of the mountains is honored with one more jewel in their illustrious crowns. For decades legendary and iconic coaches David Gentry (Murphy) and Boyce Deitz (Swain) stared at each other across a green playing pitch plotting to out scheme and out wit each other squeezing ever ounce of sweat from their Bulldogs and the Maroon Devils. This weekend the two rival coaches celebrated those days and their accomplishments and their admiration for each other.
The night was set to music. From the bedroom communities of Tar Heel to Toot Holler there were former Bulldog and Maroon Devils chattering and bantering back and forth and on scene to honor their coaches. The background music for the actual banquet was the instrumental theme to the movie Remember the Titans. The real music was when you walked around the room hearing old stories and yarns being spun by the Maennle brothers, Bob Marr, and Deitz family. Or you could hear the Brinkes, Thompsons, Coach Gaither, and Gentry family…plus J.R. Carroll. The story I like best, as told by JR, is while he was in a Sylva convenience store and ran into Coach Deitz. Coach told him every time he screams “FIRST AND TEN BULLDOGS” it did more to fire up the Maroon Devils rather than doing the worst. JR politely responds to Coach Deitz, “If you’re hearing me do that it really means Swain ain’t doing that well.” Or maybe it was Steve Maennle who got a chuckle when he did his best JR impression for Swain fans and JR arriving to the hotel banquet area. Regardless, it was a good evening for two communities sharing laughs and love for their historic mountain coaches. Both Gentry and Deitz had their time on stage to answer a few questions and share their thoughts.
Now the real reason we were in Cary at the Embassy Suites . . .to honor the coaches. Part of the following portions of this article was generated by the NCHSAA. We added a few details because they left out a state championship for Coach Deitz. Long-time Voice of the Maroon Devils Gary Ayers pointed out the program left out one of the Swain Championships, probably the 1985 title. The amazing work of both coaches is how they work diligently with our mountain football players to mold them into highly talented athletes and model citizens. More than a few of their players like Carl Pickens or Heath Shuler played major college football, and opportunity was there for these two to play in the NFL. Many have played college football and went on to good careers, most crediting the leadership of Coach Gentry and Coach Deitz.
The state championship trophy and honor has been in western North Carolina for many years during the decades Gentry and Deitz were active coaches. Deitz started the impressive collection of state championships with a 2-A title in 1979 with a 28-to-21 win over Clayton. For the next 14 years the 1-A state title was held by either Robbinsville, Murphy, or Swain County. During 1984 Jamesville defeated Rosman for the title. For Coach Deitz, Swain County defeated North Edgecombe 32-to-0 in 1985; Midway 23-to-7 in 1988; Currituck 35-to-14 in 1989; and Robersonville Roanoke 40-to-14 in 1990.
Coach Gentry during this time racked up two state titles shortly after moving to Murphy in the early 1980s. Under his leadership, the Bulldogs defeated Tabor City 27-to-3 in 1986; Columbia 56-to-15 in 1987; Rosewood 30-to-3 in 1991. Outside of this era, Coach Gentry would help led the Bulldogs to a state 1-A title in 1996 with a 13-to-0 win over North Edgecombe; 21-to-6 win over Jones Senior in 2011; 35-to-34 win over Plymouth in 2013; and later titles in 2016, 2018, and 2021 before retiring.
Between the two coaches, they also led teams to the state championship games five times and did not win the titles in 1993, 1994, 1995, 2010, and 2012. The impressive part of these coaches has been how they worked to adapt with student athletes and understand their changing nature and social trends. That has made their leadership something to build and model.
Boyce Deitz | Bryson City
Boyce Deitz had a phenomenal career as a coach and athletic director at Swain County High School before serving his community in many different political aspects after retirement. Deitz served as Head Football Coach and Athletic Director for the Maroon Devils, compiling a 218-72-2 record in his football career. His record at Swain County alone was 201-58-1 including four 1A Football Championships and a 2A State Championship.
He was chosen as the 1979 Coach of the Year, and the football field at Swain County has been named in his honor. Deitz served as a member of the NCADA Board of Directors and has served as an officer in that organization for three years. In his civic career, Deitz was instrumental in the construction of the Western NC Regional Livestock Center. He has been inducted into the Jackson County and Swain County Athletic Halls of Fame.
David Gentry | Murphy
Simply put, David Gentry is the winningest coach in the history of the NCHSAA for the sport of football. Gentry has compiled a 426-195-3 record in 47 years of coaching, giving him more wins than any coach in the history of NCHSAA Football. His record at Murphy alone is impressive, earning a mark of 361-117-1, which is the most wins at a single school in NCHSAA Football history. Gentry’s teams won 9 State Championships and finished as runner-up an additional three times.
He has collected 18 conference championships in the highly competitive Smoky Mountain Conference, winning Conference Coach of the Year 18 times as well. Gentry was the 2017 Shrine Bowl Head Coach. He was selected as one of the NCHSAA’s 100 Coaches to Remember in the Centennial Celebration of the Association in 2013 and was inducted into the WNC Sports Hall of Fame in 2017. The football field at Murphy is named in his honor.