Loyal to the very end, Felton Page drove from Durham to Hillsborough for the Cedar Ridge-Orange softball game last Tuesday to watch three players who had been devoted to him when times were difficult on several levels.
Just hours earlier, Page’s resignation as Cedar Ridge women’s basketball coach had become official. On March 25, he told his team that he was stepping down as head coach after five seasons in an emotional meeting.
As he watched Tori Dalehite, Amy Stutzer and Takia Nichols rout the Lady Panthers on the softball diamond, Page appeared relaxed as his stint at Cedar Ridge ended.
“I feel like now is the right time,” Page said. “It’s time to let someone come in and have some fresh ideas and move the program forward.”
Page’s resignation comes as the Red Wolves will lose Madison Wardlow, its all-time leading scorer, to graduation in June. Seniors Natalie Garay and Amy Stutzer, both of whom played regularly, will also graduate.
Cedar Ridge was slated to return three starters next season, all of whom were loyal to Page. Dalehite, in particular, was thinking about going out for swimming unless Page returned as head coach last winter.
“I was thinking about not playing last season, but then I did,” Daltehite said. “Because I just felt like family. He has a good program and I’m going to miss him. It was a sad meeting. Everyone was crying because we’re all going to miss him. He was like a father figure to all of us.”
Nichols, already an All-Big 8 Conference candidate in softball as a freshman, played with Page last season.
“He was always so helpful,” Nichols said. “He was always so happy. You never saw him down unless we made him mad. But he always happy.”
Last month, Wardlow became the first Cedar Ridge player to score 1,000 points in a game against Southern Durham. Just as Page did a generation ago, Wardlow will join the Army after she graduates.
“I’ll miss all of them, not just Maddy,” Page said. “I knew the team was upset when I told them last night, but it will pass. They just need to continue to play. Hopefully, the new coach will come in and they can enjoy what they started.”
Page was an All-Conference wide receiver at Chapel Hill High School. After his military service, he eventually returned to CHHS as a junior varsity head basketball coach. He was the varsity head coach for two seasons in the late 1990s.
After spending time as a game official for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, Page returned to coaching in 2013 at Cedar Ridge.
This season, Cedar Ridge went 7-18, 5-9 in the Big 8 Conference. Cedar Ridge made consecutive state playoff appearances in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, they defeated Cleveland 65-53 for its first win in the state playoffs since 2005. In the 2nd round, they extended Corinth Holders to overtime before losing 38-34.
The 2017-18 season was Page’s most successful at Cedar Ridge. They finished 14-11 and defeated crosstown rival Orange 46-39 inside Panther Gymnasium. After finishing 8-6 in the Big 8 Conference, the Red Wolves were the only basketball team from Hillsbrough to make the state playoffs that season, falling to D.H. Conley 58-42 in Greenville in the opening round.
Page, who is a special education teacher at Carrington Middle School in Durham, hasn’t ruled out coaching again.
“Right now I’m just taking it easy,” Page said. “If something comes up that tickles my interest, then that’s what I’ll do. Otherwise, I’m just enjoying my time.”