A new era for Lakeside football began Thursday night.
The Lakeside School District announced Garren Rockwell as the Rams' new head football coach at a school board meeting after 13-year head coach Jared McBride resigned in December.
Rockwell joined the Lakeside staff in 2014 and has been the defensive coordinator at the school since 2016.
"It's always been my dream to be a head coach somewhere," Rockwell said. "The main reason here at Lakeside is because Lakeside is a family. From the superintendent all the way down to the janitor he preaches that, Mr. (Shawn) Cook and eventually it'll be Mr. (Bruce) Orr. I wanted to continue to be a part of the family."
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Rockwell emphasized family as a reason he wanted to take over the job of head coach at Lakeside.
"I've got three kids," he said. "At this point in their life if I was to ever leave and take another job somewhere else, they would stay here and I would have to leave. I don't want that. It's mainly for the family aspect -- the Lakeside family and my personal family -- and also my dream of being a head coach."
Lakeside athletic director Darin Landry said Rockwell's plan for the future of the program really stood out during the hiring process.
"A lot of people think it's X's and O's and it's scheme," Rockwell said. "That has a little bit to do with it. In high school football the biggest thing is, especially in the generation of kids we have now, we've got to get them to work hard. Put back down that blue collar work ethic. That's what I am and who I am as a person."
Rockwell continuously repeated just how important it is for Lakeside athletes to hold that blue collar attitude, and he expects his athletes to truly be student-athletes with good grades in the classroom.
He also wants to get the team in the community completing community service to give back to the Lakeside faithful.
Back on the field, the Rams competed in a tough 2022 season, ending the year with a 2-7 record and missing out on the playoffs.
Lakeside is a program that expects to be in the playoffs on a yearly basis, and Rockwell has his work cut out for him to get the Rams back on track quickly.
"We've had a great program here since I've been here," he said. "We've won a lot of big ball games, a couple of conference championships. Done a lot of great things. ... Just reiterate to the kids just because we had a bad season doesn't mean we have a bad program."
Lakeside's most recent playoff win came in 2020 when the Rams beat Vilonia. Lakeside made the playoffs in 2021 but fell to Wynne.
While goals of conference championships, playoff runs and state titles are obvious, Lakeside is yet to pick up a win against nemesis Lake Hamilton since the series resumed in 2018.
It is no question Lakeside fans would love a win over the Wolves.
"I know that's one of the things the community is thinking about," Rockwell said. We're going to try to put our best game plan together and give them a ball game. I know they're going to give us a ball game. We'll see what happens. That is one of the goals every year since we've started the rivalry back is to try to get one from them. We haven't done that."
In his eight years at Lakeside, Rockwell learned if a game plan doesn't work, don't be afraid to toss it out the window.
"Football wise (I've learned) to put in multiple game plans," he said. "If something doesn't work you trash it and then you try to come up with something better. You can't get bogged down. You can't beat your head up against a wall. You've got to come up with new, creative ideas, especially here, to get your kids one, motivated and two, to put them in a successful position to win."
Rockwell said his biggest challenge will be keeping the Lakeside team together, a challenge he said coaches across the country are experiencing.
"Keeping our guys here," he said. "Keeping them at Lakeside playing football from seventh through 12th (grade). That's going to be the biggest challenge for every high school football coach. Just keeping the team together. Keeping those special groups of seniors together at a large number. Keep them interested. Keep them playing."
Rockwell said McBride left big shoes to fill as the head coach of Lakeside, but the new Ram head coach relishes the challenge.
"Outside of the blue collar work ethic that you've got to have to run a football team, I want my kids to know and my athletes to know that I love them, I respect them, " Rockwell said. "I love and respect their parents. I love and respect the community."