06/17/12 — Matthews counted his blessings

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Matthews counted his blessings

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 17, 2012 1:52 AM

Blessings come in a variety of different ways. Brad Matthews' came in 15 powder-blue uniforms this season.

The fifth-year Charles B. Aycock softball coach took a senior-led group that felt the effects of disappointing finishes in 2010 and 2011, and guided them to the ultimate pinnacle just two weeks ago -- a state championship.

"It's been the smoothest year I've ever coached in my life," Matthews said. "This group has been like a family. There was no drama whatsoever during the whole season. The team chemistry was there.

"The parent support was great and the community support was awesome. When you have all that, it makes a big difference and that kind of support really meant a lot to the girls."

For his efforts, Matthews has been unaminously selected as the 2012 News-Argus All-Area Softball Coach-of-the-Year.

But Matthews didn't know if he'd be in the dugout this season.

A competitive-driven individual, Matthews was diagnosed with prostate cancer last fall. He underwent surgery in December and his doctor said the operation went extremely well.

"I won't ever forget when I was laying on the operating table," Matthews said. "I thought about my family first and then my softball team. I said 'Lord, if you take me now, I pray that You give this team a state championship because they deserve it.'

"And for some reason, he wanted me to be a part of it. It really motivated me even more to live every day because you don't really know how much time you have left."

It's a journey Matthews will remember forever.

He scribbled out a deadly-hitting lineup that included power and speed. Aycock set single-season team records for wins (31), runs scored (258), home runs (30), hits (310), extra-base hits (88) and stolen bases (87) -- just to name a few.

The Golden Falcons also enjoyed a 26-game win streak that ended with a Game 1 shutout loss to Fred T. Foard in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A state championship series. Matthews' team bounced back for 4-3 and 7-2 victories that capped the Golden Falcons' preseason goal.

"I had known for a while that with the pitching, defense and hitting we had that this was a special team that could win the state championship," Matthews said. "I could see the fire in them. They were going to find a way to win no matter what it took. That is something you just can't teach.

"All the girls were determined to win a state championship and we talked about it from day one when they were freshmen. They stayed together for four years, remained positive and it got us a state championship."