Richmond has its man

News & Observer Photo New Richmond Senior football coach Mike Castellano was 32-8 in three seasons at Middle Creek.

ROCKINGHAM — After 54 days and an 18-minute closed-door session, Richmond Senior has its 10th football coach in the school’s 43-year history.

By a vote of 4-0, the Richmond County Board of Education approved Mike Castellano to succeed Paul Hoggard in an emergency meeting Wednesday morning. In attendance were board members Jerry Ethridge, Bobbie Sue Ormsby, Joe Richardson and chairman Wiley Mabe. Two members, Dr. Irene Aiken and Donnie Greene, were absent from the meeting.

Castellano’s first day at Richmond is scheduled for June 12. He will make a salary of $77,500 as a social studies teacher as well as serving as the school’s football coach.

Dr. Cindy Goodman, who headed the eight-person committee to find Hoggard’s replacement, said the group was impressed by Castellano’s knowledge of the program and his enthusiasm.

“We liked his excitement. We liked the fact he was very familiar with our program,” Goodman said. “He has admired our program for a long time. He said he came here, I think he said in 2008, on a recruiting trip with Coastal Carolina. He came to a Richmond-Scotland football game. He thought to himself at that time, that was the best venue he had ever seen a high school football game.

“I think this is something that has been in the back of his mind for some time. I think Mike wants to be successful. I think he’s at a great school, but I think he realizes the potential here. And I think he looks forward to some of the expectations.”

Castellano may have used his one-time “Get out of jail” card by correcting Goodman. Castellano said he first was introduced to Richmond when he was at Catawba when one of the coaches asked him if he wanted to see some of the best high school football not only in the state, but anywhere. Castellano said that was in either 1995 or 1996.

Goodman understands how some of the fans were getting impatient as the search for the football coach nearly reached two months. Goodman added she believes the committee chose the perfect candidate to lead the football program.

“First of all, legally we post jobs for certain periods of time. Like I commented here, I think we conducted 13 interviews. We talked to some folks twice. We knew the importance of this hire and we wanted to be sure we had the right person.

“As much I would have liked for it to be a shorter process, we put a lot of time in it. I focused a lot more on football than I anticipated when I took the job. But I’m not sure what we could have changed and continued to do our due diligence. Mike was not one of our initial interviews. Members of the team said ‘he’s the guy…he’s our first pick of all the people we interviewed.’ The team was unanimous, we liked the guy. We think he’s going to be a great fit for Richmond County.”

Castellano spent three years as the head coach at Middle Creek and compiled a 32-8 record. He guided the Mustangs to the 2013 4AA East Region final against Wake Forest, falling 24-23.

During his tenure with Middle Creek, Castellano’s teams won two conference championships and appeared in the state playoffs all three seasons. In his first season, the Mustangs were 11-2 and 8-0 in the Tri-9 Conference. They lost in the second round of the playoffs to Leesville Road.

The following year, Middle Creek went 12-3 and was a perfect 7-0 in Southwest Wake Athletic Conference play.

In Castellano’s final season on the sideline with the Mustangs, the team went 9-3 overall and 5-2 in the SWAC. The team lost to Southeastern Conference member Pinecrest, 38-9, in the opening round of the state 4AA playoffs.

Before becoming the head coach at Middle Creek, Castellano served as an assistant coach at Coastal Carolina for nine years. He also was an assistant coach at North Wilkes and Millbrook high schools.

“I personally hope our fans will support him and give him an opportunity,” Goodman said. “We want to win and winning is extremely important. I love high expectations, but I want to be a realist. He is going to be changing a lot of things and there will probably a transition period that may be a little rocky.”

In Hoggard’s eight seasons as head coach at Richmond, he went 88-19-1 and won the school’s seventh state championship in 2008, a 38-35 win over Jack Britt in Chapel Hill. Last season, the Raiders were 11-2 before falling to Millbrook 28-27 in the second round of the state 4AA playoffs at Raider Stadium.

Hoggard stepped down on March 27 to become the head football coach at John A. Holmes in Edenton.

Castellano knows the expectations from the Richmond fans are going to be high, but he is looking forward to putting his stamp on the program.

“They are extremely passionate,” he said. “They have great fans and great players. The fans are very supportive of the program.”

Reach managing editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 and follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.