Esslinger leaves Hawks for Tide

Published 7:02 pm Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hancock High Athletics Director Walt Esslinger is resigning his post with the school for a job in Picayune.

Esslinger informed the Hancock School Board recently that he has accepted a job as an assistant principal and assistant football coach with the Picayune School System.

Esslinger will become the Maroon Tide’s offensive backfield coach, Picayune head coach Dodd Lee confirmed on Monday.

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“It’s great to be able to add a coach with the kind of experience he has to our staff,” Lee said. “He will be a great asset to our team.”

The move will reunite Lee and Esslinger after more than 15 years apart. The two coached together at Bay High in Lee’s first year as a prep coach.

The move will also mark a return to the field for Esslinger, who was forced by the Hancock School Board last year to choose between either being the Hawks head coach or the A.D. job. He kept his A.D. duties and then hired Brian Barkley as head coach, with the approval of the board.

It was just the same type of move that led Esslinger to become the head coach of the Hawks in 2000, when the board made former head coach and A.D. Rocky Gaudin choose between those duties and Gaudin remained A.D. and turned the head coaching job over to Esslinger.

But after leading the Hawks to an impressive 9-3 mark and a berth in the Class 4A playoffs, Esslinger left Hancock after just one year as a head coach to move to California to coach at Florin High in Sacramento.

Esslinger returned to the helm of the Hawks, though, in 2004 assuming both head coach and A.D. duties after Gaudin left for Mercy Cross.

The Hawks went just 1-19 under Esslinger in the next two seasons in Class 5A play, before Barkley took over last season.

Esslinger was also the head coach at Bay High in the mid-1990’s and coached at East Central for several years after Lee left the Hornets to take over the helm at his alma mater.

Esslinger will handle quarterbacks and running backs for the Maroon Tide this season, with Seth Smith moving to the secondary to coach defensive backs this year.

This season will also mark the first time in over 20 years that Hancock is not slated to face at least one school from Pearl River County on the gridiron.