HENNESSEY, Okla. — As Paul Hix prepares for his first season as head football coach at Hennessey, he’s not overly concerned about the need to establish a foundation for the program. That’s already been laid by the previous staff. Hix is optimistic the Eagles can being the new era in a win-now mode.
“I think everyone around here will be disappointed if we don’t find a way to get to the playoffs and get back to some of our tradition,” Hix said. “I don’t think it would be a surprise to anyone in our room for us to have a really big turnaround season and be a solid team.”
Hix took over the reigns of the Hennessey program in late March, just a few weeks after the school parted ways with former head coach Rick Luetjen.
Luetjen, now the head coach at Woodward, spent the past 10 years with the Eagles, including the last seven as the head man. Under Luetjen, Hennessey went 52-33 (.612) and failed to reach the postseason just once when the Eagles struggled to a 2-8 record last season.
Hix begins his new endeavor with more than 15 years of coaching experience. Most recently, he served as the offensive coordinator / quarterback coach at Midwest City for two seasons. Before that, he was the head coach and athletic director at Moore for three seasons.
The Lions won just one game in Hix’s first two years, but finished an even 5-5 in 2016. It was Moore’s best record since 2005.
Hennessey’s style of play — both offensively and defensively — has undergone a renovation as Hix implements his own components. Hix calls his offense the “power-raid.” Essentially it is a blend of the old-school power run and the modern air-raid passing attack that is most commonly seen at the collegiate level.
“It’s an aggressive offense with lots of run-pass options,” Hix said. “Very heavy quarterback oriented. Kind of base from a two tight end spread, which is not really common either, but we kind of mix it together to be a unique thing.”
Hix said the Eagles’ starting quarterback for this season will be senior Cole Joyce. Hix voiced his satisfaction of Joyce’s leadership throughout the summer as the 180-pounder continued his return from an ACL injury that sidelined him for much of last season.
“What a tremendous luxury to walk into,” Hix said. “I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t end up being All-District quarterback. He’s multi-talented. Hasn’t played a lot of quarterback, there may be some growing pains, but he can run, he can throw, he can throw on the run.”
Hennessey’s leading rusher from a year ago, Treyson Dunigan, has since moved. Dunigan, a 2018 All-Northwest Oklahoma second-team selection, tallied 1,301 yards and 13 touchdowns on 232 carries. Hix is hopeful newcomer Brysn Hunt, a senior previously from Choctaw, can help ease the sting of Dunigan’s departure.
Hunt was a key contributor to Choctaw’s defense. His 49 total tackles last season were second most on the team.
Hix intends to put Hunt’s athletic abilities to use at numerous positions including running back, receiver, defensive secondary and linebacker.
“He’s just a kid that’s our best all-around player,” he said of Hunt. “Wish we had 15 more of them.”
On the other side of the ball, Hix was able to bring in his good friend Craig Hubbard to be the defensive coordinator. Hubbard spent the past three years as the defensive coordinator at Yukon High. Prior, he was a member of Southern Nazarene University’s football staff for 10 seasons.
“I’ll be honest, what Craig says goes defensively,” Hix said. “I hired him here to run the defense as if it was his own show, and he has.”
Hix said Hennessey will run a 4-2-5 set with a multitude of various coverages in the secondary. Hix added that he doesn’t expect Hubbard to call many base sets either, instead the Eagles will be aggressive with their blitzes in order to put pressure on the opposing offense.
Hix considers Hennessey’s defensive line to be one of his greatest strengths. Because of a surplus in personnel, the Eagles’ offensive line starters will not start on the defensive front.
“That’s why I think they’re going to roll in fresh every defensive series,” he said. “I think that will pay dividends for us.”
Promising returners for Hennessey’s defensive line include seniors Alejandro Ortega and Eduardo Cardenas.
Hix described Ortega as an “absolute old-school physical type of player.”
Despite all the adjustments across the board, Hix said his players have latched on to what he is wanting to accomplish. Since his arrival this past spring, he’s made it a point to make sure Hennessey continues the structure of values left by the previous staff of treating each another like a family — protecting, encouraging and holding others accountable all at the same time.
“We’ve really jelled,” Hix said. “We’ve got as good of team chemistry I’ve ever had going into a season right now.”