MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

October 12, 2012

Familiar face set to invade Hornets’ nest

By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer

— The road had a sudden swerve in it, but the wheel of Matt Hennesy’s football coaching career is firmly in his control again.

Between losing the Muskogee head coaching job at the end of the 2010 season and getting hired at Locust Grove in 2012, Hennesy had time to take stock in his life and career in a year off, opting to stay close to his kids including Taylor, his daughter, who graduated from MHS last year.

That turn, he says, doesn’t have any effect on the approach he takes to the job.

“I don’t think it has, other than to maybe help me recharge my batteries a little bit,” he said. “I’m going to do things the same way I did then. I thought I did the best I could when I was at Muskogee. I’ve never been at a small school before and that’s a big adjustment, but there’s only one way I know how to do things.

“I told them that when I took this job. If they want to go in a different direction, then they can go in a different direction.”

Hennesy returns to a point of local focus this week as his Pirates come to town tonight to play the Hilldale Hornets in a District 3A-7 game.

Since taking over the Pirates, Hennesy made summer practices and film-watching on Saturdays mandatory, had the school buy laptops for players and coaches to use, and purchase another camera to get more than one angle for practices.

So far, the Pirates are 4-2 overall after winning just two games over the last three years.

He’s had to adjust to a fewer number of players, a smaller coaching staff and having to coach in a game almost daily.

“I’m coaching junior high and I’ve never done that,” he said. “That’s kind of fun. There’s pros and cons to both sides of it. But I can’t say enough compliments about the administration and the kids here. They’re buying into what I was selling, even though it was totally different from what they’ve done before.

“The most impressive thing about them that it was a blind trust with the players when I took the job. They didn’t have an idea if it would pay off or not. I asked them to work harder than they ever have. They just did it and that’s why we won our first three games.”

However, the Pirates have gone 1-2 since then, all in district, with losses coming to Sequoyah on Sept. 21 and Jay (41-20) last week.

Hennesy, who had a 34-23 coaching record with the Roughers, is not pushing any panic buttons.

“It’s baby steps in building the program,” he said. “I know I’m not the most patient person, but I’m the third coach these players have had since they’ve been in high school. I just want to give them stability.

“The administration here is saying, ‘OK, tell us what you’re doing, we’ll support you and see what happens.’ It’s worked out so far. I think everything is headed in the right direction.”

Hennesy said he’s not going to have any feelings, good, bad or otherwise about coming back to Muskogee. He said he won’t be thinking about what’s happening at Indian Bowl on Friday as the Roughers play Sapulpa.

“I’m getting ready to play Hilldale,” he said. “It has nothing to do with Muskogee. I don’t have any hard feelings. I have a lot of friends there.”

Hilldale coach Chad Kirkhart said he respects Hennesy and the job he’s done.

“He’s been a successful coach and I’m sure he’ll have his guys ready to go,” he said. “He’s done a good job there. We expect them to be prepared to play.”

Hennesy is impressed with the Hornets (5-1, 2-0), and Kirkhart.

“They’re as good a coached team I’ve seen,” he said. “That middle linebacker (Josh Giem) and running back (Jamaul Cullom) are studs. The offensive line is really good. We’re going to have our work cut out for us. We’ll be big-time underdogs going into the game.”

Hennesy doesn’t have any lingering thoughts about Muskogee.

“I had a good time coaching there and had a good relationship with all of the kids,” he said. “It’s just another chapter in my life.”

Locust Grove at Hilldale

7:30 tonight

Radio: KTFX 101.7 FM