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Watauga High School Athletics Honor Past Pioneers At Halftime For Pioneer Pride Night Friday

Danny Triplett, Bill Mauldin and Eric Breitenstein. Photo by Mark S. Kenna

Nov. 4, 2013. The Watauga High School athletics department honored Eric Breitenstein, Danny Triplett and other Pioneers for Pioneer Pride Night at Jack Groce Stadium during half time Friday, Nov. 1.

Watauga High School also celebrated the 35th anniversary of the 1978 3A state football champion team and its coach, Bill Mauldin. Jack Groce presented the plaque to Mauldin.

“It was great fun,” Mauldin said. “[The 1978 team] was a super group of young people who have all gone on to become successful adults.”

Mauldin worked with Jack Groce before becoming his successor.

“It’s not the easiest thing following a living legend,” Mauldin added.

The 1978 football team took home the Pioneeer’s first and only state championship in the school’s athletic history.  Finishing the season undefeated at 13-0-1, the Pioneers defeated Burlington Williams 33-28 in Boone.

During his tenure at WHS, starting in 1970, Mauldin also coached football, basketball, golf and track until he left to coach football at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C.  

For individual achievement, Eric Breitenstein, No. 2, and Danny Triplett, No. 82, had their respective WHS jerseys retired. Breitenstein, who brought the Pioneers to those western championship games in 2006 and 2007, played in the FCS (Football Championship Series) for Wofford. 

“Its an honor to have this night to be mentioned in the same breath, and have the people here who have supported me my whole life,” Breitenstein said.   

As a Terrier, Breitenstein, who was an all-American fullback and running back, was named the Bob Waters male athlete of the year for 2012-2013 and SoCon Player of the Year in 2011 and 2012. At WHS, Breitenstein is the all-time leading rusher with 6,151 yards. Athletic director Tom Wright presented Breitenstein with his framed replica uniform.

Clemson recruited Triplett, a member of the 1978 championship team, after his career as a Pioneer.  He went on to help the Tigers defeat the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Orange Bowl for Clemson’s 1981 undefeated season. After college, Triplett was drafted in the 11th round of the NFL draft to the Los Angeles Rams.  In three seasons, Triplett played with the Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins. WHS Principal Marshal Gasperson presented Triplett framed replica uniform.  

“This is my first time being at the new stadium. It’s really nice,” Triplett said. “ The jersey is going to go in with these bad boys [1981 National Championship ring, ACC ring and Clemson ring].”

The 1978 Pioneer champion football team. Photo by Mark S. Kenna


Tom Wright, WHS athletic director, presenting Eric Breitenstein with a replica of his retired jersey. Photo by Mark S. Kenna


Marshal Gasperson, WHS principle, presenting Danny Triplett with a replica of his retired jersey. Photo by Mark S. Kenna


Jack Groce presenting Bill Maulding with a plaque. Photo by Mark S. Kenna


Bill Mauldin and Jack Groce. Photo by Mark S. Kenna