With their last regular-season victory at North Raleigh Christian on Oct. 28, the Ravenscroft varsity football team clinched the Big East Independent Conference title and heads to Charlotte Christian Friday night for the first round of the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association state playoffs.
But for many Ravens, the last regular-season home game on Oct. 21 may feel like a title game as well, as it marked the last regular-season home game for head coach Ned Gonet, who retires from coaching at the end of this season after 42 seasons at Ravenscroft — a record that makes him the longest-serving high school football coach in North Carolina history.
In that time, Gonet has led the Ravens to five state-championship titles: in 1985, 1989, 1994, 2000 and 2015. They’ve been conference champs eight times. He has sent numerous student-athletes on to collegiate football play and one, Antwan Harris ’96, to the NFL and two Super Bowl titles. Last year, Gonet had three Ravens sign to play in college.
Gonet himself has been named Conference Coach of the Year eight times and State Coach of the Year twice.
Such distinctions are no small thing, and so the alumni of Gonet’s 42-year football program made sure to make that last home game a special one. More than 300 alumni and guests gathered in the Olander Center for Student Life at the A.E. Finley Activity Center to watch the first half of the game from the Alumni Hall of Fame suite. Football alumni then took to the field during halftime — many wearing custom green-and-white T-shirts emblazoned with Gonet’s name — to greet their former coach and take photos with the current team.
The celebration continued Oct. 22, as more than 150 football alumni and guests returned to the Finley Center for a dinner and program honoring Gonet. Two dozen football alumni, including Gonet’s sons, Cole ’09 and Connor ’11, and former members of his athletic staff shared remarks and memories. D.C. Ramey ’86, the driving force behind the alumni celebrations, then presented Gonet with a goat statue signed by many of his former players — a whimsical keepsake signifying the legendary coach’s status as the Greatest Of All Time.
“The turnout of past players, coaches and supporters of Coach Gonet exemplifies what he has meant to Ravenscroft and to football in general in the state of North Carolina,” Ramey said. “I am honored to have been a part of his legendary career and especially one of his state-championship teams. He will always be coach, mentor and great friend to me.”
These grateful alumni have also taken steps to ensure his legacy lives on through the Gonet Football Endowment, which will support in perpetuity the football program he spent his career leading.
“I was very humbled and overwhelmed by the recognition by the players and families I had the opportunity to coach and develop relationships with over my 42 years here at Ravenscroft,” Gonet said of the weekend’s honors. “It was very special to see all of them, and I truly appreciated all the work that was done to execute an outstanding reunion, dinner and Saturday presentation.”
The Ravens defeated Harrells Academy 55-6 on the 21st and conference rival North Raleigh Christian 24-17 on the 28th. Follow the playoff action as the Ravens head to Charlotte Christian Friday night. The game will be livestreamed through their Youtube channel. Stay tuned for more details.
Enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at Coach Gonet’s game-day routine on Oct. 21, 2022, in this Voices video.