Hancock High didn’t have to go far to find its next head football coach.
Tuesday evening the Hancock County School Board approved the promotion of assistant coach Neil Lollar.
He replaces long-time coach Rocky Gaudin, who retired after the 2016 season following 40 years of coaching along the Coast.
“I would like to thank Coach Gaudin for all he has done for Hancock football. Words cannot do justice for what he has done throughout his career for Hancock athletics,” HHS athletic director Jamie Sisco said. “We are excited to have Coach Lollar as our head football coach. I have said throughout my time as AD at Hancock that our first priority is hiring great people and Coach Lollar is no exception. The future of Hancock football is bright, and Coach Lollar is someone our community will rally behind.
“I have no doubt our kids will play hard, be well prepared, and do things the right way for Neil. I am excited to see Neil continue the things we have going in our program while also having the freedom to add his own twist.”
Lollar, 40, was actually a baseball player growing up in Booneville, later playing for Northeast Mississippi Community College and Ole Miss before moving to the Coast in 2000. In 2009, Lollar started his football coaching career at Stone, leading the receivers and defensive backs. In 2013 Lollar joined Gaudin’s staff as defensive backs coach. Last year, Lollar took over as defensive coordinator.
Lollar has been humbled in many ways by his meteoric rise through the prep coaching ranks.
“This is a huge honor,” he said. “First of all that the right people would trust me with this type of position. Only being a coach for a handful of years, I’ve been very fortunate to be with some coaches who have given me responsibilities that have led me to this.
“Rocky has given me a lot of responsibilities and guidance. That’s been big. He put me in situations where I could show what I could do.”
The Hawks have struggled the last two seasons, posting back-to-back four-win campaigns after a 7-5 year in 2014. In order to turn the corner, Hancock must re-establish a “hard-nosed” mentality, Lollar said — which starts with a strong spring season.
“The spring is going to be huge,” Lollar said. “First of all it’ll be a little different mindset as far as what we’ve done in the past. It’s going to be a different voice. They’re used to hearing me and most of them have played on my side of the ball, but just having the right mindset as well as having the right schematics heading into the summer will be huge so we can build upon it.”
The last couple of seasons the Hawks have had strong starts before stumbling through Region 4-6A. Lollar believes if the Hawks can get an early 4-6A win in ’17, that other dominoes may begin to fall.
“We’ve been unfortunate the last three years to have lost some close district games early,” he said. “If we can get one of those to fall our way somehow and get the mindset that we can complete games and compete, that’s going to be the biggest hurdle.
“That will be huge.”