By Brett Adkison | Leader Editor.
The man who led Lathrop football to its most successful period in school history has announced his resignation.
Lathrop head coach Chris Holt during the coin flip of the 2018 Missouri Class 2 Show-Me Showdown against Blair Oaks in Columbia, Mo.
Clint Dye | Leader File Photo.
Lathrop head coach Chris Holt resigned his coaching position on Thursday, April 15. He said that he was committed to coaching one more season – what would have been his 20th season – but cited different moves among the coaching staff, and how much restructuring they would need to do just for one more season.
“I thought it would be best to let someone come in and start fresh and they could set their offense and defense the way they want it,” Holt said. “I didn't think it would be fair to somebody to step in, be the defensive coordinator, me leave, then maybe that person doesn't get to stay in that position. I just felt like this was the best time.”
Holt, who has one child headed for a college and another in middle school in Kearney, added that it will also free up time for his daughter to participate in a fall sport, and perhaps have the chance to see her compete more. Unless other opportunities crop up, he expects to continue teaching at Lathrop next year.
Holt coached six seasons at Lathrop, going 48-21 while leading the team to two district championships and two KCI Conference championships.
Holt said his time at Lathrop was an opportunity to get back into education and coaching after being out for a stint, and he was thankful to former Lathrop athletic director Brian Banker for giving him that call and getting him back into it. He added that he came into a situation with really good student-athletes and was able to build a coaching staff from scratch, and that opportunity to work with a great group of people made it special.
“Once we started winning, you could feel the whole climate change in the building and in the community,” he said. “That was definitely a really fun experience.”
Holt began his head coaching career at Princeton before moving on to Maryville, where he helped establish the Spoofhounds dynasty, winning 59 games in six years while leading the team to state title game appearance in 2008 and winning the state championship in 2009. He later coached at Oak Park in 2012 and 2013.
Holt was hired at Lathrop in 2015, taking over for the outgoing Mike Thompson, under whom the Mules had made a Missouri Class 2 State Quarterfinal appearance in 2012, but had won just two games in 2014.
In Holt's first year, the Mules went 4-6 while opening the new stadium at Lathrop High School. It marked the first of four-straight seasons in which Lathrop would improve its win total.
In 2016, the Mules went 7-3. They lost just two games in the regular season, with the losses coming against eventual Missouri Class 1 State Champion Hamilton (15-0) and state semifinalist Lawson (11-3). The Mules had high hopes in the postseason, but those aspirations were put to rest in the opening round, as Lathrop fell 28-13 in an upset loss to Trenton.
Lathrop took another stride forward in 2017, opening the season with four-straight wins. That included a 21-20 home victory over defending Class 1 champ Hamilton, who hadn't lost a football game since 2015. The Mules ended the regular season 7-2 and won their first two games of the Missouri Class 2, District 8 Tournament, including an upset semifinal win on the road against Lexington (9-2).
The following week, the Mules traveled to Higginsville to face undefeated Lafayette County for the district championship. Lathrop played the Huskers tough, and were down just 34-27 late in the game. Lathrop's defense forced Lafayette County to punt, giving the Mules a final chance to tie the game, but the kick was mishandled and the Huskers added a touchdown the preserve the victory.
Lafayette County (14-1) went on to the state title game, finishing second with a 37-20 loss to seven-time state champion Lamar.
The next fall, Holt and the Mules put together the most dominant season in Lathrop history.
The Mules went 9-0 in the regular season, winning the outright KCI Conference championship – the program's first full conference title since 1998. Lathrop proved to be unmatched locally, outscoring opponents 493-52 in the regular season and winning by an average margin of 49 points. They scored 50 points or more six times, including 78 points against Hamilton, 76 points against North Platte, and 68 points against West Platte.
Lathrop also bullied its way to the Missouri Class 2, District 8 championship, defeating Richmond 49-0 in the opening round, Macon (8-3) 45-14 in the semifinals, and topping it off with a 41-6 victory against Lawson in the district championship (the Cardinals finished the season 10-2, with both losses coming against Lathrop).
The Mules dispatched Summit Christian with ease in the state quarterfinals, 41-14, setting up the biggest football game in school history: a state semifinal contest against seven-time defending Missouri Class 2 State Champion Lamar.
More than 2,000 fans packed into the stadium at Lathrop High School to watch the two powerhouses square off, and when the dust had settled, Lathrop handed Lamar its first postseason loss since 2010, 28-21, and punched the program's first-ever berth in the Missouri Class 2 Show-Me Showdown.
Holt said that it was a special moment, and the week before, the coaching staff and some of the players made the trip to Lamar's state quarterfinal game to get a look at the Tigers. They came away knowing that they could get the job done.
“Coach Bailey texted me today and said, 'I'm 0-2 against you. If you retire, I can never win one,'” Holt said humorously. “I told him, 'I think you're just going to have to live with that.'
The next week, Lathrop – both the team and much of the town – traveled to the University of Missouri's Faurot Field for the Missouri Class 2 state championship game. There, the Mules ran into fellow undefeated juggernaut, Blair Oaks, which was favorited to win the state championship in Class 3 before tumbling down a class in 2018.
Ultimately, the Falcons proved to be too much, besting Lathrop 54-0, and the Mules settled for a history-setting second-place finish in Missouri Class 2.
Despite losing a powerful senior class, the Mules were right back at it in 2019, going 9-0 in the regular season to defend their KCI Conference championship. That included a 38-13 victory at Lawson, marking the first time the Mules defeated the Cardinals in Lawson since 1993 – a full quarter century.
The Mules won their first two games of the postseason, advancing to the Class 2, District 8 championship, where Holt's former team – top-seeded Maryville – awaited them.
Entering the contest, Maryville – the 2019 Midland Empire Conference champions – had won a staggering 67-straight home games dating back to 2010, during Coach Holt's tenure with the team. And it took a miracle performance to bring it to an end.
Lathrop trailed 28-21 with less than a minute remaining in the game when the offense faced fourth down and 20 from Maryville's 37 yard-line. Senior quarterback Blake Gordon heaved a hail mary pass to the end zone toward senior receiver Chris Moore, who was covered by a pair of defenders. Moore leapt and caught the ball at his highest point, scoring the touchdown and making the score 28-27.
Instead of playing for overtime, the Mules went for the two-point conversion, with Gordon taking the shotgun snap and powering his way through the left side of the line for the go ahead score, 29-28.
The Spoofhounds had one more turn with the ball, but Lathrop senior Tyler Paul intercepted a pass, finishing out the miracle in Maryville and seeing the Mules through to the state quarterfinals.
“The emotion of that football game, from each play, to the next one, to the next one, it was pretty thick,” Holt said. “You could cut it with a knife, for sure. To come back and make the play that we did, the jump ball in the end zone, going for two and getting it, stopping them after the penalty, it was all encompassing.”
After defeating Summit Christian for a second year in a row, the Mules were back in the state semifinals, this time traveling to St. Louis to play Lutheran North.
Lathrop proved to be the only team in 2019 that could crack Lutheran North's defense, but it wasn't enough to upset the eventual state champions, as Lutheran North won 38-24.
In 2020, Holt's final season, the Mules replaced 21 of 22 staters from the year before and – like all teams throughout the nation – had to navigate around the pandemic. Lathrop went 1-7 and played just five conference games, as two were cancelled due to COVID-19.
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