PITTSBORO–The dog days of summer provide a definite lull in the normal buzzing of sports activity in every other season. With the unfortunate void, minds tend to wander to the end of August, when the glories of football return.
Although on a national scale, the college and professional games garner nearly all the attention, for some purists, there is nothing better than Friday night lights. Yes, high school football reigns supreme in many regions.
And if you can cast your eyes past the giant in the room that is UNC in these neck of the woods, you may just find a palpable mix of passion and performance on the gridiron that has many locals all fired up!
Last time on The Grid, we wrapped up our coverage of East Chapel Hill High School, hearing from some of their standout players.
In this segment of our high school football preview series, I had the opportunity to talk with Bill Hall, long-time Head coach at Northwood High School.
***Listen to the interview***
Hall reflected back on last year’s season in which Northwood finished in third place in the Carolina 9 and lost in the first round of the state playoffs. He believes his team learned some important lessons from a year ago, including gaining invaluable experience.
“It wasn’t the season we had envisioned, but as we look back on it, as young as we were, it wasn’t a total loss of a season either. We’re still a young football team coming into this year, but last year we were exceptionally young,” Hall said.
And Coach Hall is optimistic about his team’s chances entering this fall. He shared some insight on a determining factor for the ultimate success of Northwood football.
“Athletically, I think we’re as good as we’ve ever been. Up front is what is going to determine it. We’re going to be determined by what we can do up front. The kids know that. It all depends on the big boys,” Hall said.
Coach Hall acknowledged the importance of setting goals for his team. But he doesn’t want them coming from him. He invites his players to step up and take ownership of their team, and that includes establishing expectations.
“We have a returning seniors cookout every year – the first weekend in June. I let the seniors talk about goals. […] Our first goal is to get through this non-conference schedule with a 4-0 record,” Hall pointed out.
Entering his fourteenth season with the Chargers, Coach Hall relishes a little bit of change at Northwood. His team will be moving up a division, making its debut in the 3A Great 8 conference in the 2013 season. Will his boys be ready?
“I think we’re ready. Is it going to be tough? Yeah, it’s going to be very tough. We have prided ourselves in years past playing the bigger schools-3A and 4A schools. I think we’re ready for that, but I think from top to bottom this is probably one of the toughest 3A conferences in the state,” Hall said.
And with perennial power Southern Durham, a Chapel Hill team that made the third round of the state tournament last year, and an Orange High school squad that made it all the way to the state semifinals in 2013, Coach Hall broke down three essential keys for the Chargers to be a threat.
“First we’ve got to get in shape. We have to get our big boys in shape. […] We’re going to have our best athletes on the field. Secondly, we have to avoid injuries. We’ve got some key players at key positions that if they get injured it could be a very long season for us,” Hall said.
The final component to the Hall’s success formula is one that can often be overlooked by coaches everywhere-a little thing called “having fun.” Hall tries to make his practices enjoyable, and he preaches the importance of making the sport fun to his players.
With the starting tailback, quarterback, and all four defensive linemen returning, Hall is thankful for the much needed experience many of his impact players will have at their disposal for the 2013 season. He believes the past experience will come in handy for his squad this season.
In the end, Hall applauds all the hard work his players have been putting in during the entire long offseason as they prepare for a run at a conference crown.
“I think it’s the best summer that we’ve had since I’ve been at Northwood, and I’ve been here a long time. The spring went really well for us. We started opening the weight room right after Christmas. High numbers were in there every day. […] We got a lot of stuff done. I’m looking forward to it,” Hall said.
Only time will tell whether Northwood is truly prepared to run with the “big boys” of the newly formed Great 8 conference. But one thing is for sure-Coach Hall is pumped up for the opportunity!
Next time on The Grid: a quick hit Q & A session with some of the Charger student-athletes.