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Bertie ready for 07 By Gene Motley 08/10/2007 WINDSOR – With a quartet of new coaches at four of the six schools in the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald coverage area second-year Bertie High coach Tony Hogg

WINDSOR – With a quartet of new coaches at four of the six schools in the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald coverage area second-year Bertie High coach Tony Hoggard didn’t expect to be one of the longest tenured field bosses this early in his career. 

But as Hoggard begins his second season at the helm of his alma mater (he graduated in 1986 after playing four seasons – then went on the play at UNC-Chapel Hill), there are no ‘sophomore jitters.” 

&uot;I’ve gotten my feet wet,&uot; Hoggard said with a smile in a recent interview, &uot;and now I’m looking forward to the second go-round&uot;.

With a 5-1 Northeastern Coastal Conference mark, enroute to a 9-4 overall record – the only blemish being a regular-season ending 27-8 loss to Hertford County – Hoggard’s Falcons made the post-season and won their first-round matchup against Wilson Hunt.

Hunt is a team they’d beaten once during the regular season. They then fell in the second round to SouthWest Edgecombe. 

And before even the kickoff of his 2007 campaign he’s already set some lofty goals for his team.

&uot;We have a good opportunity to make a run in the playoffs,&uot; he says, &uot;and also to compete for the conference championship.&uot;

Before imitating former NFL coach Jim Mora and make that now-famous high-pitched screech: &uot;Playoffs??  You’re talking PLAYOFFS!?!” understand that Hoggard feels that barring injury, he has a squad he thinks will be in &uot;the thick of things&uot;. 

The Falcons open the season in Wilson against Hunt again and their third matchup with the Warriors in less than 13 months. 

Then will come powerful defending state 4-A champion J.H. Rose, in a contest to be played in Greenville, and with the memory of last season’s 54-6 thrashing in Windsor still fresh in the minds of his upperclassmen. 

It’ll get no easier the following weekend when they play their home opener against 4-A New Bern, another team that took the measure of the Falcons in ’06.

&uot;We were fortunate last year to open the season with a win,&uot; he mused. &uot;The mystique of Rose got to us, and they wore us down. 

“We had a chance against New Bern, and just let one get away,” he added. “But we got back on track and, but for the emotion of the Hertford County game – I think we were too excited – we never recovered mentally in that game. This year our class of juniors and seniors is more focused on football.&uot;

Speaking of those seniors, Hoggard is reluctant to single out the achievements and expectations of only a few select players.

Senior running back Kevin Swain has played on the varsity level for three prior seasons.  The 5′ 9&uot;, 180-pound ground-pounder has racked up over 1,900 yards rushing and scored over 30 touchdowns. 

&uot;He’s got tremendous speed, great hands, and a terrific work ethic,” Hoggard indicated.

The coach also likes the leadership of quarterback Desmond Williams – a player whom the coach feels has unlimited potential. 

&uot;He’s just a pure athlete,” said Hoggard. &uot;He has talent for days.&uot; 

The coach says in addition to three years’ experience under center, he wants Williams to also focus on defense, which is where he thinks the five-ten 196-pounder will probably play in college, adding, &uot;he’s going to open the eyes of a lot of schools. The kid is just gifted&uot;

Hoggard saved some of his best comments – and compliments – for six-seven 330-pound lineman Travis Bond, who attended summer football camp at the University of North Carolina. 

Smiling he rattled off several schools who are tracking the junior – including five in the Atlantic Coast Conference. 

&uot;After this season I’m going to have to get a new mailbox just for him&uot;, said Hoggard shaking his head, &uot;because once they see (tape on) him, they’re going to come running.&uot;

Returning to the discussion of his whole team, Hoggard turned serious again.

&uot;Our skill positions: receiver, tailback, and quarterback, if I was grading I would give them an ‘A’,&uot; said Hoggard. “The question mark will be our (offensive) line because we’re replacing two seniors, including our center.&uot; 

Despite some key losses on defense he gives the players in the trenches high marks as well. 

&uot;Defensively we’re going to be faster and okay up front despite replacing my whole linebacking corps,” he said. “Special teams will definitely be a priority because I need a kicker since I haven’t found one that stands out just yet.

&uot;I need them to zero in on the little things, not be overconfident of their own effort,&uot; he pointed out, &uot;but making sure they do everything correctly. 

“They’re still feeling each other out right now, but after the first couple of ball games it’ll be a different story,” he continued. “I think this team’ll compete once we get started. 

&uot;They have a swagger about them, but I gotta keep ’em humble because you can get beat any day, especially if you’re not paying attention to details,&uot; the coach stressed.

Winking with a smile he leaned forward and concluded with emphasis, &uot;I’m not going to let everything out of the bag.  But I think we’re going to surprise some people.&uot;