As Gatesville’s quarterback from 2004 to 2006, Luke Howard learned how to read the situation and improvise as needed.

That’s just part of the QB’s job.

Now he’s doing it again for the Hornets as Howard has been named Gatesville’s head football coach.

Howard takes over for Kyle Cooper, who announced in late June that he was leaving the school to join Art Briles’ coaching staff at Mount Vernon High School.

Cooper hired Howard as assistant head coach and special teams coordinator in June after former Hornets assistant Keith Stifflemire took the head coaching position at Riesel in May.

Now Howard, who was Valley Mills’ offensive coordinator last fall and spent the three seasons before that as Mary Hardin-Baylor’s running backs and tight ends coach, will shift to the head coach’s seat.

“It was definitely unpredictable but also exciting at the same time,” Howard said. “I’ve always had the dreams and aspirations to be a head coach. I definitely was not expecting it at this juncture, but certainly excited about the opportunity and confident that I can go do some good things for this community.”

Dr. Barrett Pollard confirmed Howard’s hire and the appointment of head volleyball coach Rickey Phillips to interim athletic director.

Howard’s father, Steve Howard, was an assistant coach at Gatesville for 18 years and served as the Hornets’ defensive coordinator on their 2000 Class 3A Division I state championship team.

So Luke Howard is well acquainted with Gatesville’s football tradition as he seizes control of the program.

“When you look at it in terms of it being my hometown and a place that I’ve spent about 20 years, I definitely know a lot of people and it certainly means a lot doing it in your hometown,” Howard said. “I grew up in this field house. A lot of the people that had a hand in raising me are still around.”

While Howard might be new to some of the Hornets’ players, the Gatesville athletes will still see plenty of familiar faces at practice. The Hornets football coaching staff includes seven returning coaches from last season, the offensive and defensive coordinators among them.

“I think consistency for our kids is very important,” Howard said. “A lot of that consistency comes from the staff that’s already been here. Schematically, we’re going to be very similar. We have a great staff here on hand, a lot of really good coaches. So I feel really good about stepping into the situation.”

Gatesville finished 3-7 and 1-3 in District 5-4A Division I last season. The Hornets tied for third in district, but missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker with China Spring and Brownwood.

Although just a five-team district, 5-4A DI went 7-3 in the playoffs with La Vega claiming the 4A DI state championship.

“I think you’ve got to be realistic about things, but also on the other hand you’ve got to look at things as an opportunity to go do something,” Howard said. “Our district is tough, our nondistrict schedule is tough, but Gatesville is never going to shy away from playing good teams. You’ve got to embrace it.”

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