PHIL ELLIS SENTER: Oct. 24, 1943 - Aug. 18, 2020

Phil Senter, longtime J-M football coach, dies at 76; funeral Friday

He coached the Jets from 1977 to 1996.


SILER CITY — Phil Senter, the vaunted Jordan-Matthews football coach who led the Jets to 14 consecutive playoff appearances in 19 years at the helm, died Tuesday morning at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. He was 76.

His daughter, Wendy Senter Copelan, confirmed the news in a Facebook post early Tuesday. She said Senter had been suffering from neuropathy, a result of chemotherapy to treat lymphoma, and was “a little unsteady” when he fell and broke his neck Monday night pulling a recycling bin in from the road.

Neurosurgeons arrived to treat him, but Copelan said the injuries from his fall were “too severe.”

“My daddy and my hero left us peacefully this morning,” Copelan wrote. “I am so angry that he fought lymphoma and won and this fall took him.”

“I am everything I am today because of this amazing man!” she continued. “Please pray for strength for us. We are rocked to the core. God, I need you!”

Senter, a native of Harnett County, was a Sanford Central High School and Western Carolina alumnus. He worked as a teacher for 46 years at Jordan-Matthews and later Chatham Charter School.

At the former school, he went 146-65-2 as head football coach. He retired from coaching in 1996; Jordan-Matthews named its football field after Senter in 2003, and he was inducted into its athletics hall of fame in 2007.

P.J. Lowman, the former Jordan-Matthews men’s basketball coach who played four years of football for Senter at J-M, said the coach changed his life for the better — “and there’s hundreds of people just like me” who feel the same, he added.

“Honestly, I don’t even know where to start,” said Lowman, now coaching at Apex Friendship. “He’s a guy who held the coach title long after he coached. He was so active on Facebook. If I ever posted something about my teams, he was always there with a word of encouragement. He stayed our coach 25 years after he was gone.”

Senter is survived by Wilda Estridge Senter, his wife of 53 years, three children (daughters Copelan and Leslie Senter James and son Neal Senter) and six grandchildren, among others.

You can read Senter's full obituary from Smith-Buckner Funeral Home in Siler City and find information information on his funeral Friday, scheduled for 11 a.m. at Jordan-Matthews High School, at this link.

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.