Remember the Titans: Tripp Stone, now the defensive coordinator at Matthews Butler, has fond memories of his time at West Forsyth
Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 9, 2023
By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier
When the West Forsyth football team heads down to Matthews later this week to face Butler in the second round of the NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs, many fans will see a familiar face patrolling the Butler sideline.
That someone is Tripp Stone, the defensive coordinator at Butler. Stone played quarterback at West Forsyth, and his father, Russell, was the head coach at West Forsyth. Russell Stone came to West Forsyth, according to Tripp, during the 1991 season as the assistant head coach to Denny Zeiters. Russell Stone was eventually named head coach.
Although the game this week will be at Butler instead of West Forsyth, it’ll be Tripp Stone’s first chance to face his old team and school.
“I haven’t been to a game there,” he said. “So, to be on the opposing sideline would be a little weird. So, being at home is definitely a sense of comfort, and you know, I don’t look at it any different necessarily. Either way is really exciting for me. Whenever you’ve got a chance to play against your alma mater, I think that’s the case for any coach.”
This will be the fifth meeting between the two schools, and Butler holds a 4-0 lead.
“Each team is different,” Tripp Stone said. “So, I’ve seen them do a lot of really good things. (West Forsyth has) dealt with some injuries … Our kids have been in several big games. You know, played a national schedule this year. We have several kids back who won two playoff games last year. So, I know on defense I’ve got eight starters that have won playoff games before last week.”
This year is Kevin Wallace’s first season as the head coach at West Forsyth after replacing Adrian Snow, who was highly successful. Before West Forsyth, Wallace was at Northwest Guilford.
“(Butler) is well coached. Coach (Brian) Hales, I knew him a little bit. Tripp Stone, an alum of here,” Wallace said. “Tripp and I talk a lot since I took this job and everything. And he’s helped me along the way through my first year. It’ll be good.”
Tripp Stone realizes he has a task at hand this week in trying to defeat his alma mater, but he still has fond memories of West Forsyth. Tripp was in sixth grade when his father went to West Forsyth. Russell Stone, according to Tripp, was at West Forsyth from 1991-03.
“Lumberton was a place that had been good and had several guys in the NFL,” Tripp Stone said. “But, you know, there was the fanfare and stuff like that wasn’t anything like what I experienced at West. And he was at South Robeson before that.”
It all changed when he was old enough to attend West Forsyth.
“When I got to West, we averaged like 3,000-5,000 people a game,” Tripp Stone said. “You know, we’re nationally ranked. It was a completely different ballgame, atmosphere-wise. And I just really fell in love with the place and the community. Me and my sisters all graduated from there.”
Tripp Stone said he reclassified because he was too small to play at West Forsyth. He went to Immanuel in Clemmons during his eighth-grade year and was the ballboy at West Forsyth. He started playing at West Forsyth in 1995.
“We were really good on JV,” Tripp Stone said. “We ran the Wishbone, and I was the quarterback and played a little safety. I think we went 8-2. And my sophomore year, we started the year 8-0 and had a great year and had a couple injuries and lost to Davie and Tabor down the stretch.
“And ended up starting in the playoff game because the quarterback that was the starter, Joe Burchette, got hurt against Davie. And so, I started a playoff game, and I got hurt midway through, and he had to finish the game.”
As a junior for the Titans, things became even more interesting for Tripp Stone.
“I played defensive back and quarterback and was an all-conference at corner,” he said. “And my senior year, I played quarterback.”
Back then, during his senior season of 1998, there were plenty of murmurs that Tripp was getting favoritism for being the starting quarterback because he was the coach’s son.
“The situation that went down was a pretty rough one,” he said. “You kind of know about that story a little bit. It was tough because no matter what you did, it wasn’t good enough. But that comes along with being a coach’s kid. You know, you have to be a guy that just makes plays and has no memory and doesn’t let any of those things bother you.
“You know, a lot of that, it prepared me for what I do now because when you’re a successful coach, when you’re good, everybody expects it. Of course, when you make mistakes, everybody points fingers and ridicules you.”
Tripp Stone fully admits that it was tough to have gone through that, and that was before the advent of social media.
“It was kind of wild because while I was playing, I was a backup quarterback, and played some corner, and punted,” he said. “But it was a deal where, like, the other coaches kept wanting me to do other things. So, I ended up being in this or that.”
After he graduated, he went to N.C. Central in Durham. Now married to wife Turq, he has a 22-year-old son named Mykah, who is a senior at NCCU and is a long-snapper on the football team, and he also has a 12-year-old daughter named Khloe.
“I had a college scholarship. The biggest adjustment for me was not being at practice every day with my dad. And being in college and handling things there and trying to go through that process. I redshirted that year, so I came to several games, but that was the first time in my life I missed a game pretty much.
Tripp Stone played at NCCU for a year and half, came home, and tried a couple of years later at Winston-Salem State.
“I was actually a receiver in the summer and fall when Josh McGee (now the head football coach at Reagan) was starting at quarterback,” Tripp Stone said. “They told me I had to sit out another year because of the conference (CIAA) transfer rule. And I was already 22 and had my son. He was 1. That was the end of my career, and started coaching.”
According to Tripp Stone, after he graduated, West Forsyth went 6-4 and 3-8.
“He started a bunch of young kids, and then we had two years in a row where we were really good,” Tripp Stone said. “And I was actually helping him coach quarterbacks a little bit during that process while I was at home and doing the thing at Winston in school. Then we had another 3-8 year, and that’s subpar at West. They moved him on and (replaced him with Chip Petree).”
Despite all the hardships, Tripp Stone looks at his time in Clemmons and West Forsyth fondly.
“Heck, you’re in middle school, high school. A lot of things going on,” he said. “Great times, tough times because of some of the situations you deal with, but I think any coach’s kid would say that.
“My times at West were some of the best years. I wouldn’t say, I wouldn’t say necessarily, I guess when you look back on things, you’ve got a lot of time in your life. High school is a big deal. I loved going to school there. I met a lot of friends. Really enjoyed playing ball there. Great atmosphere. Great culture.”
After Russell Stone was let go at West Forsyth, Tripp then assisted his father at Purnell Swett and Fayetteville Byrd, where they stayed for eight years. After Russell was let go at Byrd, Tripp decided to interview for a job in Charlotte at Vance, which is now Chambers. They offered Tripp the defensive coordinator job, a position his father asked him to take on a whim when they were still coaching together.
It was hard for Tripp to break free because he considered his time as an assistant with Russell Stone to be like a team.
“When that happened at Byrd, it was a deal where like, ‘Alright, we’re going to go our separate ways,’” Tripp Stone said. “I was really at a point to where I wanted to do my own thing because sometimes when you’ve got that stigmatism, you don’t get chances at jobs you feel like you should. I enjoyed coaching with him. It was something that was eventually gonna happen, and I was really tired of living in Fayetteville.”
Tripp then went to Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte in 2015 and won the NCHSAA Class 4-AA state championship that season. After Mike Palmieri left Mallard Creek in the spring of 2020, Tripp Stone applied for it but didn’t get it. He eventually left Mallard Creek for Butler.
“If I was going to be an assistant at that time, it needed to be a program that was established and a coach I knew I could work with because coming from working with Palmieri, which is one of the best head coaches I’ve been around, it was just so well planned,” Tripp Stone said. “I mean, it really ran like a college. So, it wouldn’t been hard to go work with a younger guy, or a guy in a program that was really low, or whatever.”
It’s worked out for Tripp Stone at Butler. It has only given up 133 points in 11 games this season. He even had his father briefly help as a quarterbacks coach there before Russell took the job as offensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Collegiate Post-Grad Academy.
“Tripp throws himself so passionately into what he does,” Hales said. “We could be playing one of the weaker teams on our schedule. You’d think we’re playing the Super Bowl. He’s going to stress over every play. He’s already going to be on that level. So, if anything, and I do the same thing myself like we’ve got to make sure as coaches we’re calm or under control because our kids are watching us to see how we act.”
As the game between West Forsyth and Butler is played this week, Tripp Stone will likely have his memory jogged.
“Growing up, I always watched film with Dad and was at all the coaches’ meetings, even when I was in middle school, especially at West,” Tripp Stone said. “I was around Coach (Ray) Bell a lot, who was a great D-coordinator while we were there. I could kind of do a little bit of everything on the field because of that.
“…Being a coach’s kid, I think a lot of us can really coach anything because of those things.”