One of the biggest changes across the landscape of high school football in the area heading into the season is without a doubt at Hoggard High School as Craig Underwood takes over for longtime veteran leader Scott Braswell.
After losing a pair of college-bound freshmen at the running back and linebacker positions and with a new quarterback under center, Underwood understands the challenges ahead. But the rookie head coach is looking to keep it business as usual for the former Viking and longtime assistant.
“It’s been really exciting and a great opportunity to take over the program at Hoggard,” said Underwood. “We’ve been working hard over the summer and trying to build off of that. There’s a lot of energy on the field right now and that’s what we’re looking for.
“The message back in the spring was that we have some positions where we’re going to need some younger guys to step up into and I think they’ve responded so far. We’re on the right track.”
While Underwood doesn’t think there’s too much pressure taking over for the man for whom the football stadium is named, he plans to use Braswell’s presence overlooking the Hoggard Athletics Department to learn the ins and outs of what it means to be a head coach.
“We had a great formula under Coach Braswell and it’s obviously the model I’ve learned,” Underwood added. “We’re not veering off the script too much, trying to add some new wrinkles here and there, but largely sticking to the same way we’ve done things.”
The Vikings have enjoyed tremendous success over the past decade, with a 4A state championship under their belt and numerous conference titles. As the program heads into a new era of Hoggard football, there may be some new faces at the forefront of the team’s triumphs, but it’ll be the same recipe and blueprint in which they go about achieving their goals.
Underwood is living proof of what the Braswell era brought to the Hoggard community for 18 years and eager to prove Viking supporters that he will continue the tradition built over the past two decades.
Even though the changeover should be an easy one for its players from a preparation standpoint, with many not knowing anybody but Braswell as the program’s head coach Underwood does admit there will be a learning curve as the top dog on Shipyard Boulevard. But, past experiences and serving as interim head coach during Braswell’s fight against cancer in 2014 should help the new boss with a seamless transition into the future.
“Coach Braswell is a great mentor and we talk regularly,” said Underwood. “There’s an expectation to win and I like that. I like that I didn’t have to come in and really change the culture or mindset of the program. The foundation is here. Pressure to be successful, I enjoy it. I think I’ve seen different aspects from position coach, coordinator and interim and now I get to sit in the big chair and I’m excited about that. We’ve got a great coaching staff and that’s what makes this thing work. Everybody pulls their weight and it’s a special thing.”
As the dog days of summer start to creep in for football teams across the area, the Vikings have pushed through a grueling couple of weeks on the practice field, while keeping the focus on the start of the regular season on August 21. Hoggard played in two scrimmages, including the BB&T Jamboree, and open the year at home against Holly Springs.
Other non-conference games to keep an eye on are September 11 at Charlotte Christian and their final tuneup before league play against the Clinton Darkhorses on September 18.
“We kind of sell them on August is the grind, but August also comes and goes real fast,” said Underwood. “It’s not the August that it used to be and it all happens really fast so there’s some urgency as we get ready for our first scrimmage.”
Hoggard 2015 schedule
Friday, August 21 vs. Holly Springs
Friday, August 28 @ Seventy-First
Friday, September 4 vs. Pine Forest
Friday, September 11 @ Charlotte Christian
Friday, September 18 vs. Clinton
Friday, September 25 vs. South Brunswick
Friday, October 2 @ New Hanover
Friday, October 16 vs. Laney
Friday, October 23 @ West Brunswick
Friday, October 30 vs. Ashley
Friday, November 6 @ Topsail