Lake Norman Athletic Director Jay Keener announced Tuesday that the school has hired the new leader of its football program.
“After Iredell-Statesville School Board approval, we are happy to finally make it official that Jonathan Oliphant will be Lake Norman’s next head football coach,” Keener wrote in an email.
Oliphant has 10 years of high school football coaching experience, mostly at Mooresville. This will be the 31-year-old’s first time leading a varsity squad. He said he’s excited about the opportunity.
“I’ve been around high school football, because of my dad (Randy), for 29 years. He’s been an assistant and he started there (at Mooresville) with Mike Carter, so this has been a dream of mine,” Oliphant said. “For the administration at Lake Norman High School—Keith Gentle and Jay Keener the AD—to give me this opportunity, I’m just really grateful and blessed. I’m excited, ready to get over there and get after it and just do what I know I can do.”
This past season was Oliphant’s eighth as a varsity assistant and JV head coach at Mooresville, his alma mater.
In 2016 and ’17, Oliphant served as defensive coordinator for the Blue Devils’ varsity team. He also coached outside linebackers (six years) and defensive backs (two years) there.
Before coming to Mooresville, Oliphant spent two seasons coaching defensive linemen at Salisbury.
Oliphant also applied for the Mooresville head coaching vacancy as well as openings at Northwest Cabarrus and Belmont South Point. He said he was invited for a second round of interviews at Mooresville but didn’t get that far before Lake Norman offered him the job.
No regrets on his decision to accept.
“I felt like for my family and me this was the best opportunity,” Oliphant said.
“When Coach Keener and Lake Norman gave me that chance I jumped at it,” he continued. “I wasn’t going to be a man against my word and say, ‘Hey give me a chance, give me a chance,’ and then somebody offered me a chance and then say, ‘Well, let me see what happens over here.’ That’s not who I am. I’m a man of my word. That’s just the way I was brought up.”
Oliphant replaces Rob McNeely, who resigned in December to take the head coaching position at Fort Mill (S.C.)
The Wildcats were 54-44 in eight seasons with McNeely at the helm. They enjoyed an undefeated regular season and North Piedmont Conference championship in 2016 before enduring a 2-9 season last fall that included a 1-6 mark in the I-Meck Conference.
Oliphant said over the years he’s been impressed with the “hard-nose, blue-collar mentality” of the athletes Lake Norman puts on the football field, which made the job enticing.
“Having been in the weight room with those guys for only a week and a half, I can see it now in the guys that we have coming back,” he said. “Being in that league that we’re going to be in, we’re going to have to have guys that are going to compete and get after you.”
Keener noted that Lake Norman is still waiting for Oliphant to assume a vacated teaching position but that he expected that to be resolved within the next couple of weeks.
In the meantime, Oliphant is starting to piece together his coaching staff, which will include his father.
Oliphant said the “privilege” of coaching under the likes of Joe Pinyan at Salisbury and Hal Capps and Marty Paxton at Mooresville taught him how important it is for a head coach to surround himself with quality assistants.
“We’re trying to assemble a group of men that can lead in the right way and do things in the right way and have the same goals and mentality that I do,” he said. “It’s also important to get along. When that cohesion is not there at the staff level it trickles down to your team. So we’re going to take our time and make sure we get good, quality guys that are the right fit for our program.”