Dalton Noakes wore No. 8 as a youth football player.

He wore No. 51 as a freshman at Clearview. He wore No. 59 as a sophomore.

But there never was any question about what number Noakes would wear as a junior for one of South Jersey's most surprising teams.

Clearview coach Steve Scanlon made sure of that.

"Coach Scanlon said it was automatic," Noakes said.

Noakes wears No. 82 in honor his father, Chris, who died of a heart attack in February at 46.

Chris Noakes wasn't just Clearview football's biggest fan. He was Clearview's biggest fan, period.

"He showed me what it means to be a Pioneer," said Scanlon, the team's second-year coach. "He lived it. He loved it. He just loved this place."

Dalton Noakes, a junior defensive end, will wear his dad's number in Friday night's South Jersey Group 4 championship game against defending champion Shawnee.

Noakes has a tattoo of the No. 82 worn by his dad, Chris, who played for the Pioneers in 1986, the last time they made the sectional final.
PHIL ANASTASIA / Staff
Noakes has a tattoo of the No. 82 worn by his dad, Chris, who played for the Pioneers in 1986, the last time they made the sectional final.

Noakes also has a tattoo on his left calf, an "82" numeral inside a "C"emblem.

"I play every game for my dad," Noakes said.

But here's the thing about the legacy of Chris Noakes. His son isn't the only Clearview player who carries his memory into every game.

The elder Noakes coached nearly all of the Pioneers in the community's youth football program and stood behind each of them on their journey from 8-year-olds just learning the game to varsity athletes in pursuit of the school's first sectional title.

"He was our role model," Clearview's Ryan Gies, a senior two-way tackle, said of Chris Noakes. "He was the definition of what it means to be a Pioneer.

"We're playing for him. Everything we accomplish, we want to accomplish under his name."

Senior linebacker David McCullough also is a standout wrestler. He won the District 30 title at 152 pounds on the night of Feb. 17, hours after learning of Chris Noakes' death.

"Everybody was crying in the locker room," McCullough said.  "Mr. Noakes was exactly what a Pioneer is supposed to be."

Scanlon's best memory of Chris Noakes was in the emotional aftermath of Clearview's 28-27 win over Kingsway last Thanksgiving, the Pioneers' first victory over their archrivals in nearly a decade.

"He comes out of this big group of people laughing and crying, and he just gives me this monster, monster hug," Scanlon said. "He was the embodiment of what this place stands for."

Dalton Noakes practices with the team as it prepares for Friday’s South Jersey Group 4 title game against Shawnee.
TOM GRALISH / Staff photographer
Dalton Noakes practices with the team as it prepares for Friday’s South Jersey Group 4 title game against Shawnee.

Scanlon said Chris Noakes was a constant at Clearview sporting events, a positive presence who pulled for every athlete who wore the green and gold.

"He was Clearview's biggest fan," said Dalton Noakes, who also wrestles for the Pioneers. "He wouldn't just be supportive of me. He would be just as supportive of everybody else.

"If someone else did good, he would treat them like they were his son. He would be ecstatic for them."

Chris Noakes wasn't just a beloved youth coach and devoted fan of the school's athletic program. He also was something of a prophet since he foresaw the Pioneers' emergence this season as one of South Jersey's top teams.

"He definitely knew it," the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Dalton Noakes said. "He was saying it for a while, 'Wait til junior-senior year, we're going to be amazing.' "

The Pioneers were just 3-7 last season, although they won their last two to build some offseason momentum. They started 2-2 this season but have clicked off five straight victories to advance to the sectional final for just the second time in program history.

The big win was last weekend's 20-0 shutout of second-seeded Highland, as the Clearview defense held the Tartans without a first down in the second half.

"We all did our jobs," said Noakes, who registered five tackles.

The victory sent the Pioneers into the sectional final for the first time since 1986, when they lost to, Delsea, 16-13, in the South Jersey Group 2 title game.

That team featured a standout sophomore who wore No. 82.

His son will wear the same jersey number on Friday night.

"I go hard for my dad," Dalton Noakes. "I play as hard as I possibly can for my dad.

"I know this is what he would have wanted."

Inside the Game

Shawnee (4-6) at Clearview (7-2), Friday at 7

The stakes: This is the South Jersey Group 4 title game.

The road to the final: No. 4 seed Shawnee beat No. 5 Mainland, 25-7, and No. 1 Millville, 28-26. No. 3 seed Clearview beat No. 6 Hammonton, 23-7, and No. 2 Highland, 20-0.

Previous sectional titles: Shawnee, 7 (Group 4 in 2017, 2014, 2013, 2004, 2002; Group 3 in 2007, 2008). Clearview, none.

Shawnee players to watch: Freshman quarterback Matt Welsey has thrown for 389 yards and five touchdowns in three starts; senior Joe Dalsey has run for 428 yards and nine touchdowns and has 51 tackles; senior Jon Searcy has 33 catches for 460 yards and four touchdowns.

Clearview players to watch: Senior Ryan Gies has 25 pancake blocks and eight tackles and blocked a field goal last week against Highland; senior David McCullough has 80 tackles; senior Dean Dvorak has 528 rushing yards and seven touchdowns; senior Troy Bentancur has 718 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

Pick: Shawnee, 21-20.