BREAKING: Wittenberg out as HHS football coach after two seasons

Cody Dalton
Sports Editor

After two seasons of leading the Hickory High School football program, Allen Wittenberg is out.

Wittenberg said he was “asked to resign” from his head coaching position on Friday, and the school system made his resignation official in a press release issued Monday afternoon around 3 p.m.

Wittenberg was caught off guard by the school’s abrupt decision to make a head coaching change.

“I wasn’t really expecting it at this point,” said Wittenberg, an HHS alumnus. “I want what’s best for Hickory. I’ll always be a Hickory man. If the best doesn’t include me, it doesn’t include me, but I’m always going to be a Red Tornado.”

Hickory was 2-9 on the gridiron this past fall under Wittenberg, including a 2-5 record in Northwestern 3A/4A play — an improvement from the 1-10 overall and 1-6 conference records during his first season in 2015.

“It was a tough season for the Tornadoes, and I appreciate all of coach Wittenberg’s hard work,” said Hickory High School Principal Katherine Cater in the press release. “While he has stepped down from his coaching responsibility, he remains a valued member of our faculty.”

Despite only three wins in his two seasons, Wittenberg is pleased with the progress the program made.

“I’m proud of the players,” he said. “I’m proud of seeing them grow and mature as young men. I think everyone focused on the scoreboard, but to see them turn into better people is an important thing. I still feel like we made great progress. I think things can turn around here real soon. I’m proud of what we did here.”

The son of former Hickory High School head football coach Larry, Allen Wittenberg started his coaching career in 1996 at Fred T. Foard, staying at the school for five years before starting an 11-year tenure as an assistant coach at Hickory from 2001-12.

Allen Wittenberg left the Red Tornadoes following the 2012 season, joining Patton High School as a defensive coordinator for two seasons.

In 2014, Wittenberg took his first head football coaching job at Draughn High School, and one year later, he was hired to be the head football coach at Hickory High School.

The search for the next Hickory High School football coach will start immediately, according to Hickory Public School’s press release.

That hire will be the 10th head football coach for the Red Tornadoes since 1953 — a list that includes Frank Barger (1953-84), Larry Wittenberg (1985-91), Bob Hanna (1992-93), David Elder (1994-2002), John Worley (2003-11), Tom Harper (2012), Mike Helms (2013-14) and Allen Wittenberg (2015-16).
Forrest Blake also served as an interim head football coach at Hickory High in 2014 after Helms resigned midway through the season.

Wittenberg is unsure on the advice he would give to the next Red Tornadoes gridiron leader, but he believes there are a lot of pieces in place for that person to be successful.

“You’re going to have a lot of quality guys to lean on,” he said. “There are going to be some pieces there, but I don’t know about advice. Everyone has their own niche and way of doing things.”

Wittenberg plans to remain at Hickory High School as a social studies teacher, but still leaves the door open to coach again down the road.

“Right now, I’m just going to be here (at Hickory High School), and I’ll be teaching here,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of good friends in the building. I definitely enjoy the teaching aspect of it. I don’t feel like I’m done coaching. I don’t know what that means or where that leads. Hopefully that opportunity will present itself down the line. I still love the game. More than that, I love the people involved with the game. I hope I’m blessed with another opportunity.”

Hickory is still searching for its first winning varsity football season since going 8-5 back in 2012.