The spring of 2021 was a busy one for Nick Doolittle as he was an assistant for the Hiawatha football team while finishing up his degree from NIU.
The fall of 2021 isn’t shaping up any different, as Doolittle was named the Hawks’ new head coach, replacing Jason Keneway after the most successful run in program history.
“They needed someone to take over and continue the culture,” Doolittle said. “I figured I already knew the kids, I love Hiawatha, I love football so I thought I would be a great choice to keep that culture and set the kids up for success.”
Doolittle was approved by the Hiawatha District 426 school board on Thursday, taking over a program that went 3-3 under Keneway in the COVID-19 pandemic shortened season in the spring.
Keneway went 30-16 in his tenure at the school, which began in 2016. Between 2001 and 2015 the Hawks won 31 total games and hadn’t made the playoffs since 1987.
“Obviously it was a weird year with everything that went on,” Doolittle said. “But I really enjoyed the time we did get to spend and having those six games got me really excited about football again.”
The spring season was also the first for the Hawks at eight-man. With just 14 players on the roster, Doolittle said it was a smart decision to drop down.
He said he was appreciative to have the year as an assistant as both he and Keneway were figuring out what worked and what didn’t at the eight-man level.
“Technique-wise it’s still football,” Doolittle said. “But scheme-wise it’s a lot different. You see things you can’t really do in 11-man. It was a good mix-up. I enjoyed learning the new aspects of the game I played and have been involved with for a long time.”
Doolittle graduated from Hiawatha in 2015. He attended Wisconsin-Platteville and Kishwaukee College before graduating from NIU in the spring.
He played running back and safety for the Hawks the year before Keneway took over the program.
“I want to keep the same culture and atmosphere that coach Keneway worked really hard to build,” Doolittle said. “Scheme-wise it will look similar but with different personnel. There will be little tweaks and little changes that hopefully will set us up for the season.”
Doolittle said the adjustment has so far gone great.
“We kind of know each other a little bit already,” Doolittle said. “I think they respect me and know I was a player there. I already came in with that and built some respect in the last year and I think that’s carrying over pretty well.”