HIGH SCHOOLS: Breintenstein, Triplett lead Watauga’s first Hall of Fame class

Published Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

Eric Breitenstein, one of the top athletes in Watauga High history and now back at his alma mater as an assistant football coach, leads the school’s first Hall of Fame Class./WOFFORD PHOTO

Late Pioneers coaches, female track and field star,

local radio broadcaster to also be honored



BOONE – Watauga High’s first Hall of Fame Class includes two of the best to play varsity football for the Pioneers.

Eric Breitenstein — a 2008 graduate who is now an assistant football coach at his alma mater — and linebacker Danny Triplett, a star on the 1978 state 3A title football team, lead the class.

They’ll be joined by Lindsay Taylor, longtime coaches Jack Groce and Carter Lentz – both of whom are deceased — and Mike Kelly of WATA radio in Boone as a special contributor.

The team induction for the first class will be the 1978 football team that won a state 3A championship.

Because of COVID-19, the induction ceremony will be delayed until the fall of 2021.

Watauga has started its Hall of Fame to honor Pioneers athletes, coaches, teams, and sports contributors for their achievements and/or contributions to the school.

The school plans to induct up to four athletes, two coaches, one team, and one special contributor each year.

Eric Breitenstein

Breitenstein played football, baseball and wrestled while at Watauga and his football career was highlighted by leading the Pioneers to the semifinals in 2006 and 2007.

He had 646 tackles, nine interceptions and 17 forced fumbles during his prep career while rushing for 6,151 yards (120.6 yards per game in 51 games).

Breitenstein, whose No. 2 jersey was retired in 2013, added 620 career receiving yards and scored 78 times, including 65 by rushing, two by receptions and three via kickoff returns.

He played college football at Wofford College, where he is in the athletic Hall of Fame after his No. 17 jersey was retired. He was Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2011 and 2012.

More of his stats: https://woffordterriers.com/honors/hall-of-fame/eric-breitenstein/138

Danny Triplett

Triplett played football and basketball and contributed in track and field.

He played for North Carolina in the 1978 Shrine Bowl was the 1978 Lineman of the Year by The Asheville Citizen Times.

Selected all-conference, all-state and as an All-American, Triplett played college football at Clemson, where he started on the Tigers’ 1981 NCAA championship team, and his was an 11th round pick in the 1983 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams.

His No. 82 Watauga jersey was retired in 2013.


Lindsay Taylor

Taylor was a standout in cross country, swimming, volleyball and track and field.

She was Watauga’s Female Athlete of the Year in 1997 and on the school’s three straight outdoor track and field state title teams (1995-97).

Taylor won individual state titles in outdoor track and field – the 100-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles in 1995-97 and with the 1997 1,600-meter relay team.

She continued her athletic career at Brown University, winning an NCAA 400-meter hurdle title in 2001, and she was inducted into Harvard’s athletic Hall of Fame in 2016.

Taylor was a 2004 US Olympian and had top 5 finishes (third in 2001 USA Championships; third and fifth in 2003 World Championships).

More of her stats: https://brownbears.com/honors/hall-of-fame/lindsay-a-taylor/68

Jack Groce

Groce was a teacher and athletic director at Watauga after graduating from Wilkesboro High and Appalachian State (where he played football).

He was head football coach at Appalachian High from 1955-1965, Appalachian State running backs coach from 1966-71 and Watauga head coach from 1972-76 with a career prep record of 134-22-4.

Groce also coached golf and baseball during his Watauga career.

He was inducted into the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) Hall of Fame in 2001 and into the N.C. Athletic Director’s Hall of Fame in 1996.

Groce was athletic director and an assistant principal at Watauga from 1977-90 and was Watauga County AD for two years (1991, 1992).

In 1998, the Pioneers’ football stadium was named after Groce.


Carter Lentz

Lentz is a longtime teacher and basketball coach at Blowing Rock High and Watauga.

He was head varsity boys’ head coach at Blowing Rock High (1949-65) and had the same position at Watauga from 1965 through 1980.

Carter’s boys’ teams at Watauga went 198-138, his girls’ teams at Blowing Rock were 113-41 from 1957-63 and is overall record was 552-360.

The school named its gym Lentz-Eggers Gym in honor of Lentz, inducted into the Watauga County Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

1978 Football Team

The Pioneers went 13-0-1, beating Burlington Williams 33-28 to win a state 3A title.

Bill Mauldin was head coach and his coaching staff included Carter Lentz, Steve Breitenstein, Mike LeBel, Tom Pursley, Bill Peterson and Bill Eller.

Team members: Buford Fox, Nolan Brown, Todd Greene, Joe Critcher, Jim Flick, Chip Conn, Rusty Hicks, Tim Greene, Mark Trivette, Todd Harmon, Bert Lerch, David Stewart, Council Robbins, Tracy Little, Skip Smith, Jon Steinbrecher, Brett Murrelle, Dwaine Lowerance, Mike Shook.

Also, Robert Townsend, Jim Hill, Delmus Williams, Mike Ward, Ricky Pitts, Lindsey Dilly, Scott Eggers, David Taylor, Bill Greene, Dan Watson, Chris Pitts, Ricky Wilson, Eddie Reese, Dean Eggers, Bobby Dunnigan, Steve DeBell, Allan White, David Warren, Danny Triplett, Andy Callaway, Travis Wilson, Chris Jones, Mike Sutton, John White, Joe Miller, Mike Austin.

Mike Kelly

Kelly has been the voice of Pioneers Athletics since the fall of 1996.

Via WATA radio, he’s broadcast all varsity home and away football, basketball and baseball games.


His first Watauga broadcast at Wilkes Central on Dec. 6, 1996.

He is in his 39th year of sports media coverage.

A school statement on Kelly: “Mike is one of the most knowledgeable individuals you will find in regards to Watauga athletics …because of his passion and desire to do his job the right way while covering our teams, student-athletes and coaches.

The contributions that Mike has made to our athletic department stem far beyond his years of service and he will always be “The Voice of the Pioneers!”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *