High school coaches bridge relationships between students, police

GASTONIA, N.C. — Three high school football coaches in Gastonia are riding with local police to help bridge the relationship between the community and law enforcement agencies.

The coaches at Hunter Huss, Ashbrook and North Gaston high schools said that some players and students rely on them for guidance.

“I grew up in the Highland community,” said coach Darius James, Ashbrook High School.

There have been four homicides in a month in the community.

Many of the victims and suspects are school-age Black youth.

“You may be the only positive Black male role model that they see,” said coach Jabari Brewer, North Gaston High School.

“Often times you will be the person they come to and talk to before they even go to speak to their parents,” said coach Randy Thompson, Hunter Huss High School.

The football coaches said they are trusted on the field and at school, but they can’t be there when most of these youth find themselves in trouble.

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“If I’m going to tell my kids to trust the police, then I have to be 100% of police,” James said.

So they agreed to ride along with police on the Fourth of July, one of the busiest nights for wayward teens and for police.

“We had 35 calls before 12 o’clock,” Thompson said.

The coaches experienced what police deal with, and they also helped.

All three coaches were called to the Mountainview community.

Hours before, kids playing with fireworks destroyed the home of a family of eight.

Police were called to the scene because people were shooting fireworks at an officer. The coaches said it appeared the crowd wasn’t afraid of officers.

“When we pulled up, it was chaotic,” Thompson said.

Word quickly got through the big crowd that football coaches were there.

“Slowly but surely, you started to see youth kind of disperse,” Thompson said.

The gridiron specialists said they are not trying to be police, but they will work with police to help kids caught in a bad situation.

“It’s about teaching them how to survive in life,” Brewer said.

(Watch Below: Police investigate fourth murder in Gastonia community since May)