North Mecklenburg coach Mike Bradley and his team are done talking about how much Hough's opening hurt their football team.
"We're not really worried about what we don't have. We're just focusing on the kids we do have," he said.
After going 3-8 (2-5 in I-Meck play) last season, Bradley hopes his Vikings will be more competitive in their conference despite their youth.
"We don't have the talent that say Mallard Creek or Vance or West Charlotte or Hopewell have, but we're hoping that we can get on the same page, play together," he said.
North Meck is still a school in transition, seeing attendance numbers decrease to nearly half of the 3,000 students it had a few years back, but Bradley says he's encouraged by the interest on the football team. Expecting only about 80 players this summer, Bradley said he and his staff were pleasantly surprised to have 100 show up throughout workouts.
The Vikings will be led on the football field by all-conference wide receiver Terrence Clyburn, who Bradley says is the best overall player on his roster.
"The more he has the ball in his hands, the better team this will be," said Bradley.
Clyburn, who enters his second year at North Meck after being redistricted from West Charlotte, could also see some time at running back and even at quarterback off the Vikings' "wildcat" formation.
Quarterback Kelly Hall will also play a key role, starting after getting about 20 percent of the snaps behind the now-departed Mike Irvin.
Bradley is hopeful the experience Hall gained last season will allow for an easy transition at the position.
"We're going to ask Kelly just to manage the game, not to win it," he said.
Senior Garrison Dark will be trusted to fill Jalen McCullough's shoes at running back. Bradley said junior Jaylin Harvell has also looked good out of the backfield and at receiver.
Another bright spot for the offense is having depth on the line. Having 12 linemen, Bradley is excited to see how that will translate onto the field if the group gels.
On the other side of the ball, Bradley said his team might be the fastest he's had during his time at North Meck.
"We feel like defense will be our strength," he said.
The Vikings will have depth on its defensive line, which will be led by Gregory Mobley and Tahja Watts, and also returns all-conference strong safety Darnell Foster, who will move to linebacker.
Outside linebackers Chris Dickerson and Xavier Samuels should also help alleviate the blow left from the departures of all-conference linebackers Latham York, who had 10 sacks, and Andrew Yost, who led the team with 151 tackles.
Junior safety Karl Roberts and senior corner back Joel Brown should also contribute on the secondary.
Bradley said he has realistic expectations, knowing his team lacks experience at key spots, but he's encouraged by his football team's attitude and work ethic.
"We're going to be somewhere in the middle of the pack," said Bradley. "I'm hoping we can break into the upper three or four teams in the league."
A barometer of how competitive the Vikings could be comes Aug. 11, when North Meck hosts Berry, Butler and Concord.
Bradley is staying positive.
"We're going to have a better football team that we had last year," said Bradley. "We'll see where the chips fall, but if we keep improving in the preseason as much as we did in June and July, I feel pretty optimistic about our chances."