By Earl Vaughan Jr.
The Douglas Byrd High School football program is light years removed from the success it enjoyed during the days of Bob Paroli and later Russell Stone.
Since 2014, the best record the Eagles posted was 4-7 in 2018. They’ve had three winless seasons in the last eight years, including this spring’s 0-6 mark, and a one-win season in 2014.
Earlier this week, Hoke County defensive coordinator and Raeford native Maurice Huey accepted the challenge of trying to return the Eagles to the glory days of old. Huey has worked at numerous schools, including Hoke County, E.E. Smith, Pinecrest, Westover and St. Paul’s among others.
He had one year as a head coach, 2016, at East Columbus where his team beat winless West Columbus for its only victory in a 1-10 season.
Huey compares the situation at Douglas Byrd to what he faced as an assistant coach for Milton Butts when the two were at Westover High School.
“We’ve got to get the morale up, get the community involved,’’ he said. “I think there are a lot of good things at Byrd a lot of people don’t know.
“We’ve got to get everybody back to the way it used to be as far as being excited about Friday nights and being excited about Byrd football.’’
Huey said he will focus on putting together a coaching staff that will be able to work with the student-athletes in the school.
A major challenge at Byrd will be having face time with prospective athletes as the COVID-19 pandemic slows and students are gradually returning to the actual classroom and not doing entirely remote learning.
Huey said it helps he’s had experience teaching during the pandemic as the defensive coordinator at Hoke County.
“The main thing is I want to be in the halls, being able to pull kids to the side,’’ he said. Face-to-face recruiting in the halls and classrooms will be critical as Huey tries to improve the numbers at Byrd, which hovered in the low 20s for nearly all of the abbreviated 2021 spring season.
He plans to use every available means to reach out to potential team members, from in-person to virtual meetings.
One plus for him is he’ll be able to start almost immediately. Today is his last day working at Hoke County. He is tentatively scheduled to begin work at Byrd on Monday.
“I want to be able to communicate well not only with kids but parents,’’ he said. “We’re trying to do the little things to build morale and the family-type atmosphere we need to be successful,’’ he said.