As Long Beach officials interviewed candidates for their new football coach, the first man they talked to continued to stay at the forefront — Petal defensive coordinator Philip Pigott.
On Thursday night, the 32-year-old Pigott was approved as the new Bearcats football coach.
Long Beach advertised its coaching vacancy on Jan. 22 to coincide with the announcement that Forrest Williams was stepping down as football coach and athletic director to become an assistant principal at the school.
Within 48 hours of announcing the opening, the school had received 60 applicants.
“Our superintendent, Jay Smith, and I we were really impressed with everything (Pigott) had to say,” new athletic director Terry D’Angelo said. “As we went through other interviews, he just stuck out above everybody else.”
Pigott, who is described as a “player’s coach” by D’Angelo, is thrilled to receive his first opportunity to lead a football program.
“It’s a goal my wife and I have had for a long time,” he said. “This is an opportunity to do it where we consider home, the Coast, and at such a phenomenal school. I’m speechless. It’s a dream that’s now a reality. I’m excited and ready to get to work.”
Pigott attended Pope John Paul High School in Slidell, but considers Picayune home. He played football at both Mississippi College and LSU and was an outside linebacker on the Tigers’ 2007 national title team.
He’s relatively young for a head coach, but Pigott brings experience to the job that’s not always easy to find on the high school level. He served as a safeties coach on the college level at Wofford and Charleston Southern, both Football Championship Subdivision programs. For the last three seasons, he worked as defensive coordinator under head coach Marcus Boyles at Petal.
In Pigott’s first season at Petal, the team reached the Class 6A state title game. Petal also advanced out of the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons with Pigott directing the defense.
“Anytime you get to work under a legend is great,” Pigott said of his time at Petal. “Coach Boyles is not just a great coach, but one of the best men I’ve ever met. He’s taught me and prepared me to be a head coach.”
Pigott, who was set to meet his new team on Friday, takes over a Long Beach program that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2011 and finished 6-5 in 2017. The Bearcats were known for their high-scoring offense under Williams.
Under Pigott, it’s likely that the Long Beach team will have a different approach in 2018.
“It all comes down to creating a culture and getting the coaching staff and kids to buy in,” Pigott said. “The thing about Long Beach is that the foundation is set. They’ve done a great job there in the past. We’ll look to continue to build on that success and tradition.”
Plans on offense, defense
Long Beach will have some of the top returning offensive skill players on the Coast in 2018, including sophomore quarterback Cade Crosby and junior running back Dennis Andrews. Crosby threw for 2,105 yards and ran for 529 in 2017. Andrews accounted for 1,691 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.
“I think the big thing on offense is figuring out the personnel and trying to put them in the best spot possible to make a play,” Pigott said. “I’d like to be multiple with our formations. I’d like to be a run-first offense that can capitalize on getting numbers in the box and go over the top with the passing game so we can showcase our quarterback and receivers.”
With much of his experience on defense, Pigott looks forward to making his own mark on that side of the ball.
“We’re going to chase the football first and foremost,” he said. “We’ll be tough and physical and we’ll be technicians. We’ll base out of a 3-4 defense. We’ll try to get as many hats to the ball as we can in any situation.”
Pigott, who hopes to get started “as soon as possible” at Long Beach, plans to build a special environment within the program.
“I think it’s all about the relationships in high school,” he said. “It’s the ability to get a young man in his formative years and really teach them more than just football. I want to teach them life skills and how to be a man. I want to teach them how to be selfless in everything, on and off the field.”