HILLSBOROUGH–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!

In this edition of our high school football preview series, I had a conversation with the Head coach of the Cedar Ridge Red Wolves, Chris Casey.

In our chat, Casey seemed cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances in this coming season. And who can blame him?

For one, his team got off to a poor start in 2012 and never was able to turn things around. And add the fact that the Red Wolves are joining the powerhouse Great 8 conference loaded with tough programs coming off deep runs in the state playoffs, and you would likely be a little more contained with your expectations as well.

“We had a couple injuries right at the first part of the season which caused us to change what we were doing. We lost some close games at the beginning, and I don’t know if we ever really recovered from that,” Casey said about last season.

The primary focus for Cedar Ridge in 2013 will be shoring up the defensive side of the ball, where Casey says his team must be sharper and more mentally focused to compete in the newly formed Great 8 3A conference.

“Defensively, we have a decent amount of guys returning on defense. We have to quit giving up big plays. […] Our focus this year is to keep playing solid, keep playing smart, but to not have those metal lapses and give up the big plays,” Casey said.

Casey outlined some of the keys to success for his squad that is returning numerous starters for their 2013 campaign. Above all, he wants his team to fight for every play on the field while controlling the clock in competitive games.

“We want to be a little more successful in just trying to control the ball and control the game, spread it out, and make teams work to beat us and not give games away,” Casey said.

Cedar Ridge’s Head coach appears to be emphatic in his commitment to rectify the careless mistakes his team was making last season. His mantra seems to be one of making the other team beat you.

One aspect of his team that really has Casey excited is the newly implemented offensive strategy. He says it was designed to keep opponent’s off balance, not knowing which player to hone their attention.

“We’re going to try and get all our skill guys involved in the offense. And that way there is not one guy that they say hey if we stop this guy, we can beat them,” Casey said.

The summer training program has been geared towards a more practical approach, incorporating conditioning and game simulations in order to prepare the Red Wolves for the stress and tempo of games on Friday nights.

“We have been trying to condition their muscles and their muscle memory to be geared that we have to be on the ball and ready to go,” Casey said.

Like other coaches around the league, Casey understands the quality of the conference. In the Great 8, no team can be taken lightly.

“There are no easy games on the schedule. There is not one that you can circle and say that we’re definitely going to win this game,” Casey said.

One thing is for certain: the Great 8 should live up to its name this season.  It will be compelling stuff! And Coach Casey and his Cedar Ridge team can’t wait to be a part of it.