With the return of school comes the return of Friday night lights, or more commonly known as high school football. The smell of hot dogs and burgers and French fries, the sounds of blaring band music, cheering fans, the clashing of helmets and pads and 300 pound linemen trampling across the line of scrimmage all fill the cool autumn air. One cannot help but to feel at home as these stimulations of the senses send the mind spiraling back to successful seasons of past.
For HHS the minds immediately go back to the glory days of Sam Rogers or maybe even Josh Wells for those that have been around longer. Separated by a year, these two never actually took the field together. However, both molded HHS football into the successful organization that it is today.
The school itself opened in 2003, so of course the beginning was going to be a little rocky for the team. In the first season of its existence the Hawks won only one game, failing to make the playoffs. In 2004 entered Wells, completely taking the reins of the subpar program and running with them. Immediately he stood out, not just because of his 6’6” stature, but because the kid was good. Really good. In four years at HHS, Wells accumulated over 4,900 total yards and 33 touchdowns at quarterback. Most importantly he transformed this once struggling program into a competitive playoff team. He would eventually go on to make the NFL.
HHS had a big void to fill at quarterback with Wells gone. Many thought the Hawks would go back to the struggling program that it was before Wells, because honestly filling the shoes of a future NFL player is next to impossible. That is, for everyone but Sam Rogers.
In Rogers’ first year he took the Hawks to the state semifinals, where they almost beat state powerhouse Phoebus High School out of Hampton. Phoebus was the defending state champion and on a 28 game winning streak. Needless to say HHS was about a 40 point underdog. Behind the leadership of Rogers, a freshman, they led the game until there was less than a minute to go, losing by a score of 10 to seven.
Much like in this game, Rogers has always been a bit of an underdog in others’ eyes. He is smaller than most colleges prefer. Standing only at 5’10” he had some trouble getting big schools to recruit him despite his talent. Eventually Frank and Shane Beamer, coaches at Virginia Tech, told him he could walk on and try and compete for playing time. Rogers has always been a bit of an underdog in others’ eyes, but never his own.
“All I ever really wanted was an opportunity and that’s what they gave me. I know my expectations of myself will always be higher than the people who doubt me, but my biggest motivation is just trying to maximize my potential. At the end of the day, if I do that, it’s impossible to have regrets,” Rogers said.
Entering his senior year Rogers is now a four year starter, a two year captain, and was put on scholarship almost immediately after arriving at Tech. His determination along with Wells’ determination is what best defines HHS football.
They branded a tradition of determination and perseverance into the identity of this program forever.