For the Hackett Hornets, achieving victory in the face of adversity is nothing new. After former head coach, Lonnie Hester, stepped down in 2019, the Hornets faced the unknown. Once Hackett found their man in Michael Meador though, the players quickly re-molded the hive around their newly appointed head coach and never skipped a beat. Even with a new coach and battling the injury bug all season, the Hornets STILL finished with an 8-3 record along with a State Playoff berth.
Head Coach, Michael Meador, explained “In 2019 we had a lot of growth as a team. With a brand new coaching staff and with a lot of new starters it can be difficult to come in and have success. We had several big wins for our program to hopefully gain some momentum for this upcoming season. My favorite game of last year was against Hector. Our defense played a really good game and had a lot of key stops. Our offense struggled at times but was able to drive 82 yards on the final drive for the go-ahead score with less than one minute to go. That game gave us the momentum to win some big games in the following weeks. Our guys continued to fight and that was what I was most proud of.”
Being successful with a new coach and coaching staff should be the last big change for a while right? Wrong! For the 2020 football season, Hackett will be moving up in conference leaving the 2A and entering the 3A-1. Although the 3A-1 is new for the Hornets, their schedule has some very familiar faces. Hackett has plenty of history with 3A-1 teams such as Charleston, Cedarville, and their Sebastian County rivals the Mansfield Tigers. They will also be joined by their fellow former 2A opponents the Lavaca Golden Arrows. And rounding out the 3A-1 conference will be Greenland, West Fork, and Lincoln. Even though this is new territory for Hackett, the tasks and overall goal is the same for the rough and tough Hornets. Win and prove everyone wrong.
Coach Meador backed that up by saying “We are excited for the challenge of going into a new conference. We have played a lot of the teams in this conference so we think we have a pretty good feel for those programs. We’ll have some challenges for sure but I honestly believe our players can hang with the best of the best no matter what conference we’re in. It should be an exciting year and we cannot wait to get back to having fun playing football. Our outlook for the 2020 season is competing for a conference championship. That is our goal every year and moving up to a different classification is no different.“
As with all programs, graduation will cause the Hornets to lose some key talent and leaders on the team in 2020. One thing that Hackett has going for them though is youth. The Hornets played a lot of juniors and sophomores in 2019 which will benefit them in 2020. Having a team full of on-field experience will give the Hornets the edge over some opponents this upcoming season. “We are losing several guys including Briar Goines, a three-year starter, Dylan Kats, and Trevor Woody. All three of them made a lot of plays to help us win games. The loss of those players will hurt but we have several newcomers that can fill those the voids left by our graduates. Our players know nothing will be given to them so we’ll have a lot of guys battling hard for those positions. For Briar’s position, we are looking at Luke Gann to step in. He was injured last year but has been getting stronger in the weight room. At guard, we have Juan Farjado and Tyler Pittman battling for that spot. At receiver, Logan Slavens was banged up during several games but has put on weight and gotten faster this offseason. And Zayden Dennis and Silas Thomas will push for a starting job as well.”
So according to the math, Hackett has faced the adversities of building around a new coach in 2019, losing seniors who were team leaders, and moving up in conference in less than a full year. That’s a lot for any program in America to overcome. Now sneak in the difficulty of the COVID-19 pandemic where team meetings and team practices are cut for the time being as well. But if you’ve ever tried to get rid of a Hornet’s nest, you know that Hornets just keep coming back. Meadors Hackett squad exemplifies that analogy because they just keep on coming back stronger than ever.
“The pandemic has for sure put a bump in the road but everybody is dealing with the same issues. We cannot control what happens but we can control how we respond to the situation. As coaches, we have responded really well and stayed in contact with our players. They’re showing us that none of this will stop them from preparing for the season by doing at-home workouts and conditioning. We’ll be ready. In fact, we’ll probably be more ready than other programs.”
Photos courtesy of Mandy Foster, Dave and Desiree Slavens, and Cory and Jessica Oelke