New coach Brad Baker, formerly an assistant at Mooresville, thought it best that the Vikings get as much preseason preparation time in his first year before they play a game.
"That gives us an extra week to put some new stuff in," says Baker. "Everything is new."
Baker, who came highly recommended by Mooresville head coach Hal Capps, replaced the retired Mike Bradley in March, and has been busy putting his stamp on the North program ever since.
"It's been hectic meeting coaches, meeting players, meeting parents, meeting alumni," he says. "It's been a whirlwind. It's been fun, but it's been a whirlwind."
Baker takes the reins of a program that has struggled the past two-plus years. In 2009, the Vikings were 5-1 at the midpoint of the season, but dropped five of their final six to finish the year 6-6. Since then, the Vikings have endured 3-8 and 1-10 campaigns, with the team's lone win last year coming at East Meck.
But Baker is pleased with the high energy he's seen from his players at practice, and the progress they have made over the past few months.
"I feel pretty good about both first groups," says Baker. "We've got some guys who can fill in if they need to. We're just inexperienced."
The Vikings, while not deep, return four offensive starters and seven on defense. None is more critical than Tahjai Watt, who plays defensive end and wide receiver (see story, Page 10).
Offensively, the Vikings return, along with Watt, starters in tight end Mitchell Loll, guard Travis Jeter and center Sheldon Kinard, who as a senior is starting for the third year.
Baker is pleased not only with Kinard's physical performance, but also his leadership.
"He's not only the glue for the offensive line, but the glue for the team," says Baker. "He's our clear-cut leader."
Baker says tackle Michael Payne, also the team's long snapper, has improved significantly. He is 6-foot-6, 230 pounds.
Sophomore Nolan Beasley steps in under center after starting on the Vikings' junior varsity team that went 6-4 last season. Though Beasley is playing football for just the second year, Baker likes his poise.
"He doesn't let anything bother him," he says. "As a sophomore, he's got command of the huddle."
Tre'Sean Hutchison (5-9, 170) and David Boyd (6-0, 225) give the Vikings options out of the backfield. Tay Ray Tabron, Jaiquan Manning, Jaylin Harvell and Dyriq Moore will join Watt as receivers in the four-wide spread offense.
Defensively, the Vikings return seven starters (including Watt) in the 3-4 scheme.
Greg Mobley returns to the defensive line, while the Vikings return a trio of starters at linebacker: Jaylan Bridges, Lucas Santiago and Xavier Samuels. Defensive backs Karl Roberts and Kadeem Sherrill, who have already started for two seasons, return as well, though Sherrill is batting a high ankle sprain.
Baker says he is excited about the addition of sophomore linebacker Diego Azcue, who is brand new to football, but has progressed quickly.