Hanna named Coach of the Year

By ROBBIE ROBERTSON,

It wasn’t the start or the finish that Tate Hanna envisioned when he took the head football job at Lake High School.

The Hornets opened the season at Pelahatchie and suffered a heartbreaking 14-12 loss when the Chiefs scored with seven seconds in the game.

But that loss didn’t define the season as the Hornets bounced back with back-to-back shutout wins and reeled off six straight wins en route to an 8-3 season while finishing tied for first place in Division 4-2A.

That’s why Hanna was named The Newton County Appeal’s 2017 Coach of the Year for football.

Hanna looks back at two games that set the tone for the season, the first one was Pelahatchie.

“To lose a heartbreaker like that, that was a tough pill to swallow,” Hanna said. “But our kids never gave up. I knew if we could keep that same intensity that we would be OK. I was proud of their effort that game. The kids fought the whole game. Anytime you are a first-year coach, it’s important to win that first game. But we rebounded after that. The kids fought and got better every week.”

The second game was the Philadelphia game. After that season-opening loss to Pelahatchie, the Hornets reeled off six straight wins before taking on Scott Central in a standing-room only contest. The Rebels scored right before the half and ending up taking the win to snap the Hornets’ winning streak.

“We had come off a tough loss the week before to Scott Central,” Hanna said. “But going into the halftime, it should have been 0-0. Even though we lost, I believe that showed our kids we could play with anybody. We weren’t real proud of how well we played that second half. But we came back hungry that next But we came back hungry that next week and had our best week of practice.”

After the Scott Central loss, the Hornets had an equally tough task in Philadelphia, who was undefeated and the top-ranked team in Class 2A. But the Hornets went to Philadelphia and came out with a 34-30 win over the Tornadoes.

“To me, that game, that win, set the groundwork for everything we are trying to do here at Lake,” Hanna said. “All summer, we preached being physical. And in that Philadelphia game, we were the more physical football team. That showed me that we have a chance to be a special team.”

From the beginning, Hanna has preached the importance of being a physical football team. But he knew from past experiences that Lake was a place where he could win.

“From playing them in the past, Lake is known for having a good football program,” Hanna said. “I knew we could build it back up. I don’t think many folks expected us to be 8-3 this year. The biggest challenge was getting the kids headed in the right direction. The kids were down when we got here. But I knew they would work hard. I knew from playing them in the past that from Coach (Jeff) Breland to Coach (Bill) Ingersoll and all those coaches had gotten a lot out of the them. I knew that they understood how to work.”