MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

April 26, 2014

Kirkhart resigns at Hilldale

Hilldale football coach Chad Kirkhart resigned Friday after five seasons, four as head coach, and will move into an assistant principal job at the high school, he said.

Kirkhart told his players Friday morning.

He said he had applied for the assistant principal job when it became open, at a time the program had experienced unparelled success. He recently completed his master’s level certification for administration.

"It’s a career choice. You never know until you do it," he said. "They're both full-time jobs to the point that you can't do both."

Kirkhart was previously the Haskell head coach when Don Hendrix added him to the Hilldale staff five seasons ago. Kirkhart was named head coach when Hendrix died in March 2010. His last two teams made the Class 3A quarterfinals and went a combined 21-5. A wave of 18 seniors occupied all but five spots on both sides of the football. When they began the run two seasons ago, they replaced 17 seniors and won the 2012 District 3A-7 title.

Chandler Puckett was one of those 18 seniors  in attendance when Kirkhart met with the team.

“Had the high school and middle school kids there and there was a lot of emotion in the room,” said the two-year starter at quarterback and last year’s All-Phoenix Offensive Player of the Year. “He’s got a lot of love for us and he means a lot to us. But in the end, you’ve got to do what’s best for you and your family and he’s getting to do it in the district where his wife teaches and his daughter is in high school.”

Hunter Woods is one of the leftovers off this run that will have a new head coach.

“He said it wasn’t like he wanted to quit coaching but it’s something he has to do for the right reasons,” said Woods, a starter at running back and also a linebacker. “In my eyes he did that but he’ll always be my coach even when we get a new coach. It’s going to be weird starting spring ball without him but we’ve got a great coaching staff still here so spring ball won’t be a problem.”

In 2013, the Hornets lost to Locust Grove 42-41 in a game that ultimately denied them a repeat district title. Three teams from 3A-7 made the quarterfinals though and the Hornets fell at home to Seminole 43-28 in that round.

Kirkhart, a graduate of Fort Gibson, has coached 16 seasons. Included in that were assistant jobs at Warner and Jay.

“I’ll be heavily involved in the process of finding my replacement,” he said.

Hilldale athletic director Erik Puckett could not be reached for comment.

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