Two years ago, South Granville football coach Mike Hobgood entered the season in need of offensive linemen.
Hobgood, a former offensive lineman at Northern Durham and the University of North Carolina, turned to a group of sophomores.
“We really didn’t have much size among the upper classmen,” said Hobgood, who is entering his ninth season as the Vikings’ coach. “Luckily, we had a bunch of sophomores who were a really hard working group.”
Several of the then-10th graders were pressed into starting roles on the varsity. Micah Roberts, Cole Parrish, Winston Mauldin, Andy Ferguson, Quenton King and Tyler Parker are seniors now and expected to be the strength of this year’s club.
Hobgood, who coaches the offensive line just as former Northern Durham coach Kenny Browning did when Hobgood helped lead the Knights to the 1993 state 4A title game, has enjoyed watching the linemen develop.
Those linemen have helped extend the Vikings’ playoff string to six-straight years and should make South Granville a contender for the Northern Carolina 2A conference title in their first season in the league.
Granville went 7-6 in 2011 and followed with a 9-4 campaign last year that included overtime losses to 3A Chapel Hill and eventual 2A finalist Carrboro. South Columbus nipped the Vikings 21-15 in the second round of the playoffs.
Watching Carrboro’s march to the finals had the Vikings wondering how close they came to making a similar run.
“That’s natural,” Hobgood said. “You see how far they got and wonder if it could have been you with a break here or there.”
Seven starters are back on offense from a team that averaged 30.2 points per game. Quarterback Matt McCutcheon passed for about 1,000 yards in a run-first offense that featured junior tailback Sean Bowman (1,257 rushing yards).
The Vikings averaged 187 yards rushing per game despite losing projected starting tailback Josh Bailey for most of his senior season. Bailey tore an ACL in the first game and tore his other ACL in his first game back.
Few could have projected a nine-win season without Bailey, but Bowman emerged as a consistent runner with breakaway speed and McCutcheon proved to be a dependable quarterback who makes good decisions.
The defense, which gave up 18.1 points per game in 2012, is expected to be built around linebackers Craig Wilkie and Deonte King, who are among five returning defensive starters.
“We have high expectations, but we really don’t know a lot about our new league,” Hobgood said. “I’m suspecting that Bunn might be the favorite and Roanoke Rapids has had some outstanding players. It could be a situation where a team could drop a couple of games in the conference and still make a serious run in the playoffs.”