Coach Bruce Hatfield will step down as HHS head football coach after 20 years at the helm.
“There’s no deeper meaning,” Hatfield told The Ville News on Tuesday, one day after announcing his resignation to his players and to the HHS staff. “I’ve just been doing this a long time, and I’m just a little bit tired.”
Hatfield, 52, said he felt the decision was best for him and for the school. He will continue to teach physical education at HHS and has no intention of leaving soon. "I'm going to finish this semester and next and still be around," he said.
“It's been one of the greatest honors of my life to be the head football coach here,” Hatfield said. “I love the school, I love this program, and I'm going to continue to be around.”
The news came to HHS staff Monday evening in an email from Principal Bob Cotter, hours after Hatfield broke it to his players.
“Coach Hatfield asked that I inform you that he will be stepping away from his duties as HHS football coach,” Cotter said in the email. “We all need to take a minute to thank Coach 'Hat' for all his years of service to our student athletes! Coach 'Hat' is looking forward to this new chapter in his life. He will continue to teach at HHS as long as he wants to stay.”
Several HHS players said the room was silent when the coach told them of his plans.
“We were all speechless,” said sophomore James “J.D.” Jordan.
Jackson Alford, also a sophomore, said, “It was really sad, and no one saw it coming.”
The coach’s co-workers were stunned as well.
“He’s been such a legend for such a long time,” said math teacher Heather Thomas. “He’s definitely going to leave some big shoes to fill.”
Hatfield has been the Commandos’ coach since 1998 and compiled a 159-82 record with Class 5A state runner-up finishes in 1998, 2001, 2010 and a Class 6A runner-up showing in 2013.
This year’s Commandos finished 6-5 and were second in Region 4-6A. They were eliminated in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs Friday, falling to Blackman High 38-7.
When preparing to play a Hatfield-coached team, rival coaches knew they were in for a fight, not matter what the won-loss record.
“You knew they would be physical, well-coached, and play with intensity,” said Shaun Hollinsworth, head football coach at Station Camp High. “You had to prepare your players to match that and go beyond.”
Hollinsworth said it will be strange not seeing Hatfield on the sideline next year, but he added that he understood and respected his decision.
“When you’re a head coach and doing it the ‘right way,’ it’s a very exhausting job moth mentally and physically,” Hollinsworth said. “He’s earned the rest.”
With one of his daughters graduating college and the other soon to start it, he will have more time for family, said his daughter Elizabeth, a senior at HHS. "I feel like he will be there for me and my sister. We're definitely going to have to get used to it."
Cotter said he was surprised by the announcement but added, “…people know when it’s time, and he’s always doing what’s best for HHS.”
“It’s never been just about football,” Cotter added of Hatfield. “He always wanted to teach them values, not just football.”
As for the future of the school’s football program, Cotter said he will “talk to people internally and gauge the interest, hold some interviews, and I have no doubt that we’ll find someone.”
Article by The Ville News staff