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First-year coaches prepare to take reins

NATCHEZ — The two newest head football-coaching additions for the Miss-Lou couldn’t be on more opposite sides of the spectrum, even if they share the same title — first-year head coach.

Zach Rogel is currently in the midst of coaching the Trinity Saints’ spring practice, while Jeff Hancock is evaluating his group and teaching the fundamentals to his Vidalia Vikings this spring.

Here’s the glaring difference — Rogel takes over a team that’s coming off of an MAIS Class A State Championship, while Hancock embraces a Vidalia team that’s won five of its last 40 games.

Both Rogel and Hancock knew the situation they would eventually step into, and both had different reasons for accepting.

For Rogel, it was a chance to coach a team he once played for.

“I know the history of Trinity,” Rogel said. “I knew it when I was a player here, and I was very proud of it. That’s why I came back.”

Hancock, on the other hand, eyed an opportunity to move his family where his wife originated from, all the while enjoying the building process along the way.

“You’re not starting a program brand new, but you’re changing a lot of things,” Hancock said. “It is like starting a program because you’re building things up the way you want to. I’ve got to tell you though — the kids have been working hard.”

Even with completely opposite situations inherited, Rogel and Hancock eachhave their work cut out for them.

Graduating 12 of its 22-man roster, including key pieces on the team like Michael Whitley, Arzell McCoy, Jacob Sandrock, Joseph Vincent, Caleb Cross and Stewart Mallory, Rogel is challenged to find suitable replacements for the 2014 season. However, with returners like Dee Fleming, Wyatt Boothe and Quinton Logan at his disposal, Rogel is confident he can keep Trinity’s winning reputation on track.

Those returning athletes brew confidence for the 2005 Trinity alum.

“We’ve got the type of athletes that I’d put up against anybody in the state,” Rogel said. “We’re missing a few pieces, but we’re going to find them.”

Before Hancock pieces together his team, he set out to assemble the best assistant coaching staff he possibly could. He feels he’s accomplished that goal by bringing in familiar faces like former head coach Dee Faircloth, who brought the program to new heights for several seasons, and through spring ball, he’s finding the best position for each player. But along with structuring his team, he’s taken it upon himself to send shockwaves through the program with slogans like “Burn the Boats” to get players and those around the community excited. “Burn the Boats” illustrates the act of Vikings intruding a foreign land and burning the boats they arrived in, broadcasting to their foes that failure is not an option.

By reenergizing the program, Hancock is getting to do what he enjoys the most — build a winning program.

“It’s obviously a lot more work, but I like it better,” Hancock said. “I’ve been working my butt off, and on the way home I think, ‘Boy, I’ve got a lot done today.’ After that though, I immediately think about all of the other things I have to do.”

With plenty more to get to on their respected agendas, both Rogel and Hancock know this is only the beginning of a long road ahead.

Both said they wouldn’t have it any other way, as one coach tries to repeat dominance and another tries to recapture it.