The future of Richmond Hill High School football starts now, new Wildcats coach Matt LeZotte said Monday at a press conference announcing his hiring.
“I’m excited, humbled and honored to be the new football coach at Richmond Hill High School,” LeZotte told those assembled in the RHHS cafeteria. “I can’t wait to get started, and I really think this is a special place. I couldn’t be more honored to be here.”
LeZotte replaces Josh Eads, who went 2-8 in his only season leading the Wildcats and stepped down in December.
LeZotte, who started his remarks by thanking his wife Lindsey, was a clear choice as the school’s next football coach, RHHS Athletic Director Mickey Bayens said.
“I guarantee you we got a winner, and the coach we were looking for,” Bayens said. “This is a great day for Richmond Hill football.”
LeZotte’s resume includes plenty of winning. He spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach at Wayne County High School under coach Jody Grooms, and the Yellow Jackets finished second in 3-AAAA in 2013 and advanced to the Class AAAA semifinals. Last season, Wayne County won the region and made it to the second round of the state playoffs in 2014.
Prior to that, LeZotte was head coach at Aquinas, an Augusta-based private school that has become a powerhouse, finishing 14-0 in 2013 and 12-1 last season.
During LeZotte’s four-year tenure which ended in 2012, the Irish went 28-16 and hosted playoff games for the first time.
LeZotte inherited a team in 2009 that went 3-7 the previous season. The Irish went 5-5 in his first season as head coach, and progressed each of the next two campaigns, going 9-4 in 2011 before finishing 8-3 in 2012.
LeZotte told Augusta media in 2013 he left Aquinas because wanted to move up to a larger program. He’ll inherit an even larger one at RHHS, which had enough numbers last season to play in AAAAAA, the state’s largest classification.
Only a waiver based on the Wildcats’ geographical isolation from other large schools enabled Richmond Hill to stay put in 3-AAAAA last fall.
That’s all ahead of the LeZotte, who spoke to his new players and promised to have a team ready to compete this fall.
At the same time, it’s about building something bigger than a team, he said he told Richmond Hill Middle Schoolers earlier today.
“We’re building a program here,” he said. “We’re building something that can be sustained.”
And, as a former quarterback and three-year team captain for James Madison University – he played quarterback on the Dukes’ 2004 I-AA national title team-- the Augusta-native said one of his first priorities will be getting to know his players.
LeZotte said he believes in adapting his offense to the talent he has and praised RHHS’ defense, so he doesn’t immediately plan to institute any changes to schemes. He also won’t make wholesale changes to the coaching staff – if he makes any.
“This is an excellent coaching staff,” he said.
As for his coaching philosophy, LeZotte said he wants players to do the right things on and off the field, but be “energetic and disciplined” and know fundamentals.
“We need to be able to block and tackle well,” LeXotte said. “You have to have the fundamentals to be successful.”