A friendly family feud will be on display Saturday when Charlotte 49ers host Gardner-Webb
By Richard Walker
Few families are more tied to the Gardner-Webb program than Shelby’s Harbisons.
And yet, on Saturday, one member of the family will play against another when the Charlotte 49ers host Gardner-Webb at noon.
The 49ers’ Tre Harbison, a graduate transfer from Northern Illinois, is a 2016 Crest High graduate and Charlotte’s leading rusher with 257 yards. He’ll be matched against his half-brother Devin Baldwin, a 2019 Stuart Cramer graduate and a sophomore punter for the Bulldogs as they make their 2020 season debut.
Tre Harbison’s ties to Gardner-Webb began as soon as he was born.
“It’s fun,” Harbison said Tuesday in Charlotte’s weekly zoom news conference. “I’m going up against a school that, basically, I’ve been raised there. My uncle and my dad are in the Hall of Fame there and I’ve been going to the homecoming game almost every year since I can remember.
“It’s going to be fun for my family and everything but I have to take it like I take every week.”
Uncle Charlie Harbison played defensive back for the Bulldogs from 1978 to 1981 then became one of the school’s first professional football players with the old USFL in 1983 and 1984 before embarking on a long coaching career; A G-W assistant coach in 1992 and 1993, he’s had 15 stops in his career that includes his current role as associate head coach at the University of Missouri. In 2007, the 1978 Crest graduate was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Father James Harbison played defensive back for the Bulldogs from 1990 to 1993 and was an All-American on the school’s 1992 NAIA runner-up team who also played professionally for the Charlotte Rage of the Arena Football League in 1994 and 1995. In 2009, the 1989 Crest graduate was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Another uncle, 1983 Crest graduate Herbert Harbison is a 2016 North Carolina A&T Hall of Fame inductee who still holds that school’s records for career receiving yards and receptions.
History will be set with Saturday’s matchup as Tre Harbison and Baldwin have never played against one another.
“My first reaction was definitely ecstatic because I get to share the field with my brother for the first time,” Tre Harbison said to a game that wasn’t scheduled until last week. “With him being three years younger than me, I never got to be on the same field with him.
“So it’s big for me and him and my dad is the happiest person in the world right now.”
Tre Harbison suspects his father will wear some representation of both schools at Saturday’s game at Jerry Richardson Stadium.
“Honestly I haven’t asked him that,” Tre Harbison said when asked who he thought James Harbison would be supporting on Saturday. “But me knowing my dad, he’ll probably have a split T-shirt – one half with our colors and another half with their colors. He’s not one to choose sides. He’ll root for both of us.”
A member of the Big South Conference at the Football Championship Series level of football, Gardner-Webb’s 2020 fall league slate was cancelled in the summer because of concerns over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but teams were allowed to play as many as four non-conference games. G-W has been practicing since September but Saturday’s game is the first contest first-year Bulldogs coach Tre Lamb has been able to get scheduled.
“I have to be honest: My phone has been going crazy with everybody asking for tickets,” Tre Harbison said. “It feels like it’s the whole city of Shelby is coming. I can only get so many (tickets).”
Gardner-Webb (0-0) at Charlotte (2-3, 2-1)
When: Noon Saturday (TV-ESPN3, Radio-ESPN 730 AM in Charlotte)
Where: Jerry Richardson Stadium
Series: Charlotte leads series 2-1
Extra points: Tre Harbison rushed for 2,345 in three seasons at Northern Illinois before graduating and transferring to Charlotte for his final college season. Harbison set Cleveland County high school records with 5,770 yards rushing, 6,453 total yards from scrimmage, 650 points and a 56-5 record during a two-time state championship career at Crest from 2012 to 2015. He also originally committed to play at Virginia for former Cavaliers head coach Mike London, who also was current Charlotte 49ers coach Will Healy’s head coach at Richmond….
The game could be Gardner-Webb’s only contest of the 2020 fall season, extending a streak of consecutive years playing fall football that dates to 1946. G-W earlier this week got its 2021 spring Big South league schedule that starts with a March 20 home game against Monmouth….
Charlotte’s 49-28 win over Gardner-Webb in their last meeting also was Healy’s Charlotte head coaching debut….
Gardner-Webb has four Charlotteans on its roster, including linebacker Darien Reynolds. A 2016 Vance High graduate, Reynolds was a 2016 N.C. Shrine Bowler.
Local connections: Tre Harbison (2016 Crest graduate) is the 49ers leading rusher with 257 yards and four touchdowns on 64 carries in five games (four starts). Cameron Dollar (East Lincoln 2018) has nine catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns in five games (three starts). Calvin Camp (Shelby 2017) has 64 yards rushing and one touchdown, seven kickoff returns for 115 yards and has two tackles in five games. Gage Welborn (East Lincoln 2018) has played in three games. And Prince Bemah (Hunter Huss 2019) and D.J. Bagwell (Kings Mountain 2020) have yet to play in any games.
Next up: Charlotte plays at Conference USA rival Marshall on Nov. 21 at 12:30 p.m.