'Here comes Starsky'

Kevin "Starsky" Montgomery talks with South Pointe High School football coach Bobby Carroll at practice Tuesday.
Kevin "Starsky" Montgomery talks with South Pointe High School football coach Bobby Carroll at practice Tuesday.

Surely the coach had way too much to worry about to get ready for the biggest game of his life tonight. But Bobby Carroll found time during South Pointe High School's football practice to keep scanning the parking lot. Carroll even walked toward the pavement a few times. A lone headlight finally broke through the cold dusk toward the field.

"Here comes Starsky!" Carroll called out.

Some players during practice drills turned and pointed.

"Starsky!" yelled Clint McAteer, one of the team's student trainers. "My man!"

The mo-ped -- dubbed "The Cannonball Express" -- barreled close to the field, and off popped the one and only "Starsky." He started walking at a racing clip immediately.

The driver's name is Kevin Montgomery to a few family members, such as his beloved brother-in-law Freddy Ivey, who described Kevin as "one of the joys in this world."

But to the rest of the world, Kevin has been Starsky for most of his 43 years -- since the 1970s hit TV show "Starsky and Hutch" and another kid at school in York had the nickname "Hutch."

"I'm Starsky," Starsky said. Then he hustled across that field and threw his arms around the burly Carroll. Carroll hugged right back on that cold field where boys hope to become men someday -- if the guys who are already men show them how. And it sure looked like that path to manhood was spotted under that goal post, as two lifelong friends showed that it's all right to hug somebody who matters as much as a good friend can.

"Starsky, where you been, son?" Carroll asked.

"Trying to get here, help you with the team," Starsky said.

"Well, good, my man, we can get down to business with Starsky here," Carroll said.

"Good, remember, the wide side of the field is where there's room, run the ball there," Starsky said.

"I remember, Starsky," laughed Carroll.

Carroll blew a whistle and yelled to the team to switch drills. Starsky yelled out, "Y'all better run!"

"I'm here for South Pointe!" Starsky said. "Our team."

Starsky is there for South Pointe in Rock Hill, for practice and almost every game, because Bobby Carroll has always been there for Starsky.

The guys grew up together in York. The four Carroll boys who were such good athletes, big and tough, and this guy from down the street named Kevin in special-needs classes. Bullies found out the hard way from the brawny Carroll boys that Starsky wasn't a good choice to target for cruel jokes.

Bobby Carroll, who was closest to Starsky, grew up and moved on to coach as an assistant at Northwestern High in Rock Hill. Starsky stayed in York.

Yet, Starsky never forgot Bobby, who was his friend when he needed one. Bobby never forgot, either, even as he coached for years at Northwestern. For many years, Starsky would ride his bicycle, then later a mo-ped, from York to Rock Hill to watch his buddy coach.

When Carroll took the job as head coach at the new South Pointe High School three years ago, Starsky followed. He became a fixture at the games. That mo-ped, barreling down S.C. 5 from York on Friday afternoon, meant South Pointe had a home game. Away games, somebody would get Starsky and bring him along.

Starsky is always right on the sideline during the games, in the team pictures, all of it. On holidays or weekends, Carroll might open the door at his York home and Starsky will stride in and sit down to eat. Just like family.

Which Starsky is.

"You meet a guy like this at about age 6, then watch him grow up, and he never has anything but a smile for you, just wants to be a friend -- well, you just know he's a special guy," Carroll said. "He's an inspiration to me. A lot of other people, too."

Kevin Montgomery is "Starsky!" when he stops that mo-ped at the York Police Department, where he is loved -- even when he tells the cops a thing or two about "po-licing." He is "There's Starsky!" when he rides a lawn mower and waves in the York Christmas Parade. Dickerson Motors in York is one of the places where Starsky is a regular, his mo-ped parked at the door.

"Just like that guy in the movies, Radio, down in Anderson," said Danny Dickerson of the car company. "Radio" is James Kennedy, whose lifetime of love for the T.L. Hanna High School team and the coach who befriended him turned into a movie.

"Everybody loves Starsky in York," Dickerson said.

And not just York, when it comes to football.

South Pointe hasn't lost a game all year. Tonight, the state title game against rival Northwestern -- where Starsky used to cheer and Carroll used to coach -- is in Clemson. A long way, even for a tough, seasoned mo-ped rider like Starsky.

"Starsky, you riding with us to the game?" Carroll said at practice. "You and me, we are a team. You're part of this football team, right?"

Starsky opened his vest to show off his South Pointe jacket. Underneath, he had to show the South Pointe T-shirt. Carroll pounded his buddy on the back. Then Carroll went back out to coach.

Starsky stood on the sideline. He said, "Our team."

The game at a glance

n Northwestern and South Pointe high schools will meet at 8 tonight at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium for the state Class AAAA Division II football championship.

n Tickets are on sale at both schools for $8 or for $10 at the gate.

n Check heraldonline.com tonight for constant updates from the big game.