• John Macon Gillespie

Blake Pennock ready to build winning program at Pass Christian

Blake Pennock on the sideline of a game with the Clinton Arrows. Pennock was recently hired as the head coach of the Pass Christian Pirates. (Photo provided by Pass Christian High School)

Blake Pennock knew it was time for a new challenge.

The former Clinton Arrows offensive coordinator was recently hired as the new head coach at Pass Christian, a team that went 1-9 a season ago and has only four playoff appearances in program history, with the most recent coming in 2016 and 2017. Pennock spent time on staff at Oak Grove, Southern Miss, Terry (his alma mater) and Madison Central before his most recent stint in Clinton and believes that this experience has prepared him for a head coaching position.

"I reached a point in my career that I felt like I was ready to be a head coach," Pennock said. "I've been fortunate to work for some great head coaches and be a part of successful programs, so I know what [a championship program] is supposed to look like."

Along with feeling like he was ready to take the next step in his career, Pennock claims that he felt comfortable with the setup of the Pirates' program and felt like a championship was attainable for the school.

"When I interviewed at Pass Christian, I felt pretty strongly that the pieces needed were there," Pennock said. "There are athletes here, kids that can run. Any time you have speed, you have a chance."

With athleticism in place, Pennock believes that he has the support from the administration and community of Pass Christian necessary to reach a championship standard.

"The administration and community are hungry," Pennock said. "They want a winner and are willing to do what we need to for us to build one. Players and coaches win games, but administration wins championships, and I could see their desire, and that made this job incredibly attractive to me."

Working under coaches such as Bobby Hall (Madison Central) and Larry Fedora (Southern Miss) has helped Pennock understand that a focus on a program from top to bottom is necessary to build a successful team.

"Just seeing the big picture," Pennock said. "All the things that it takes to make a program successful, from the function of the jr. high program, weight room, having a program identity [and] the role of the community and their importance in our success."

In conjunction with the "football" aspects of a head coaching job, Pennock believes his past experience helped him prepare for the off-field portions of this job, as well.

"A lot goes into it that has nothing to do with football," Pennock said. "Motivating kids, keeping the message fresh [and] how to promote the program."

Pennock is inheriting a team that, although reached the postseason in recent years, has not had a winning season since 2001, a pattern that he hopes to break as he takes the reigns of the program.

"It's a two-part process in my mind," Pennock said. "First is to try and change the mindset here: go from hoping to win to expecting to win. The second part is tricky. I think we have the right people on the bus. What we're doing now is trying to get everyone in the right seat, so to speak. There is some trial and error in that, but I think we are definitely close."

As far as goals this season, Pennock plans to take it one step at a time, making sure his team is ready to be competitive week-in and week-out.

"Obviously we want to win games and make the playoffs, but we can't control what the teams on our schedule have and all that," Pennock said. "My one goal for this football team is to be physically and mentally prepared each Friday night to push the tempo of the game to a point our opponent is either unwilling or unable to match. I feel like if we accomplish that goal enough times, we will like where we are at the end of the season."

Although Pennock was hired to bring about success in the Pirate program, he is mostly looking forward to the impact he can have on his players' lives during and after their Pass Christian careers.

"[I look forward to] just having a platform to impact our players' lives in a positive way," Pennock said. "Teaching them how to be accountable to more than just themselves. I want to develop these guys into great football players, but also help develop them into great men, as well."

The Pirates open their season on Aug. 23 at home against Long Beach.

Follow John Macon on Twitter @JMakeSES and email him at

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