Vikings, Wildcats gearing up for regular season

The Hoggard Vikings and New Hanover Wildcats football teams are bitter rivals, but have the same goals coming into the season: both teams are looking to make deep runs in the state playoffs.

A year ago, Hoggard finished 8-6 and advanced to the third round of the 4A playoffs before losing to Scotland County.

"I think the guys learned a lot in the playoff run last year," Vikings coach Craig Underwood said. "So they are really hungry. They had a great commitment during the summer, so I am very excited about this team."

The Vikings return a handful of starters, but none of the starting spots are promised.

"We try to preach to them that everything is a competition. Everything is a competition, and part of that is the accountability of being here, and working as a team and growing as a team," Underwood said.

It's the start of coach Earl Smith's 36th year coaching, but just his third with the Wildcats and he said he is happy with the direction of his program.

"We have some great leadership there," Smith said. "Wiz Vaughn, Freddie Taylor, on and on. They have taken that role like I have wanted. It takes about three years for you to get it where you want it, and we are there."

Last year, New Hanover finished 8-5 and lost in the second round of the 4A playoffs. Smith hopes his team's hard work this summer pays off.

"The good thing about this group that we have out here right now, about 90 percent of them were here 100 percent this summer for the four weeks we worked out. It was a combination of lifting, football, speed, and agility," Smith said.

Both teams kick off the season Aug. 18. Hoggard is at home against Holly Springs and New Hanover travels to J.H. Rose.

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