Edward Armstrong will be remembered as a mentor to young athletes and students.
The Carolina Forest assistant football coach was instrumental in helping the Panthers guarantee their first winning regular season since moving to Class AAAA. He was also a special education aide at the high school.
Armstrong – known to everyone simply as Allen – died early Wednesday morning from an apparent heart attack while driving to his Burgess Community home after visiting family. He was 45.
“He was the type of man that would do anything that he could for anybody,” Panthers head coach Drew Hummel said. “He’d give you the shirt off his back. He was a good man. That’s what’s making it tough.”
Armstrong is survived by his wife and three children, as well as his former teams at Carolina Forest and St. James, where he served as an assistant coach during the past two seasons. When he wasn’t working with his football teams and his students, he was a visiting preacher at several churches in the Burgess Community. “He was always smiling, always laughing,” St. James coach Billy Hurston said. “He was always trying to help kids out. He did a great job with the kids. He had a great relationship with the kids.”
According to Hummel and Hurston, Armstrong was returning from visiting a cousin when he started feeling sick on S.C. 31. He pulled off to the side of the road, but by the time emergency officials were able to reach him he had died.
Hummel said he found out about Armstrong’s death at about 7:30 Wednesday morning. He then informed his players during a team meeting about an hour later.
The news was particularly tough to hear for the team’s running backs, the position Armstrong was in charge of coaching this year.
Even though the Panthers have been eliminated from playoff contention heading into Friday’s home game against Conway, Carolina Forest made significant strides this season.
The team will finish with the aforementioned winning regular-season record. And first-year starting tailback Mark Timmons has developed into one of the most productive ball carriers in the Myrtle Beach area. Under Armstrong’s coaching, Timmons went from part-time player to the centerpiece of the offense.
The senior and the rest of his teammates were not made available Wednesday. Earlier this year, though, Timmons praised the coaching staff, including Armstrong, for getting him ready for the workload he would face.
Carolina Forest’s game against Conway will take place as scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Hummel said the school was still figuring out memorial plans for Armstrong, and that it would include either a patch on the players’ uniforms or helmet stickers.
The pregame ceremonies will also include a moment of silence.
“Whether or not, we’ve got to play. They’re not going to postpone the game,” Hummel said. “We have to play, and we have to show up. What we show up as, I have no idea, and I’m not even concerned about that right now.
“Sometimes sports is a healing [process] where hopefully they can get their mind off it for a couple hours. But I don’t know.”
By 3:30 p.m. Wednesday several players’ parents had assembled at the team’s practice field at the high school to speak with their children, many of whom informed their parents earlier in the day of Armstrong’s death.
Hummel said practice Wednesday and Thursday would continue as usual, because that’s what Armstrong “would have wanted.”
“It puts life in reality, that sports is a game,” Hummel said. “It’s much more than winning and losing football games when you lose someone this close to you.”