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Gatesville High head football coach Luke Howard said family matters led to his decision to step down.

Athletic director Rickey Phillips said that long hours and time away from family during seasons for sports is something that weighs on most coaches.

“We hate to lose him, but we’re opening it up taking applications until Jan. 17,’’ Phillips said. “We’ll go through the process.’’

Officially, Howard turned in his resignation Monday, Dec. 13. He met with the team Tuesday to inform the players of the decision.

“I told them that I still support them and I’ll be around going to their games,’’ Howard said. “it’s a tough decision, but it comes down to more time with the family.’’

Howard, a Gatesville native and 2007 GHS graduate, served as head coach the last three seasons and led the Hornets to an 8-23 record.

The Hornets earned two fourth place back-to-back playoff berths in 2020 and 2021.

“I am extremely grateful for my time at Gatesville,’’ Howard said. “It has been a great experience working for GISD."

The Hornets had some hurdles to overcome during Howard’s tenure. The program started with a stretch that reached 700 days before earning their first win under Howard. A 14-game losing streak for the program ended with a 22-16 win over Hillsboro in 2020. The 14-game skid included two losses to end Kyle Cooper’s tenure with the Hornets in 2018.

The uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic was another factor. At the peak of the pandemic, Gatesville had two games missed because of opponents (Lorena and Lampasas) testing positive. The Hornets had to forfeit their 2020 playoff game with Carthage because of COVID-19.

"I feel like we have worked hard and have the program headed in the right direction,’’ Howard said. “I wish the program nothing but the best moving forward." 

The Hornets’ program has battled numbers and tough competition in recent years.

The season records under Howard were 0-10, 4-6 and 4-7. In 12 years under Cooper, the Hornets made the playoffs four times. The high-water mark was a 13-1 record for a Class 3A run to the quarterfinals in 2012.

"Coach Howard did an outstanding job of building the foundations of a great football program and leading with integrity. He surrounded himself with quality coaches who cared about building character and discipline into our young men.  He did a fantastic job of leading his alma mater's football program, and I am saddened to see him leave. We all wish him the best of luck as he pursues a career where he can spend more time with his young family," Dr. Barrett Pollard, GISD superintendent said. 

Howard said he plans to stay in Gatesville.

“I would like to say "thank you" to the student-athletes, their parents, and community for their efforts and support during my time here. This is a great community and I will always cherish my time leading the football program.’’

He was a ball boy on the 2000 Gatesville state championship team while his father Steve Howard served as defensive coordinator. Howard was the quarterback for the Hornets for three seasons. He started on the varsity as a sophomore safety and broke in as a quarterback for a few games in relief of injured Casey Davidson.

Howard and his wife, Savanna, have two young children under four.