He just made the Mt. Zion High School football program a winner.
And while it may give the appearance that the first-year Eagle head man and first-time head coach was dabbling in some ancient art of wizardry, it had much more to do with rolling up the sleeves and laying the foundation for a hard-hat, lunch-pail mentality of blue-collar workmanship.
And that, folks, was the blueprint to success for the Eagles in 2012. Because this was no mirage — this was all Mt. Zion.
And Holloway, the unanimous selection as the 2012 Times-Georgian All-Area Coach of the Year, silenced any critics that raised their eyebrows when he left his post as an assistant at Bowdon — his alma mater —to tackle his first head coaching job after serving as an assistant over the previous 25 years between Alexander, Central and the neighboring Red Devil program.
Of course, there were the initial concerns about becoming a first-time head coach and inheriting a program fresh off back-to-back 0-10 seasons.
But Holloway followed his heart, and the heart never lies.
“I did think about the job, obviously, before I took it. I knew the situation. But when I stepped back and looked at it, to me, it was also a great situation. It all worked out for the best," Holloway said.
“I mean, I thought long and hard about taking it, I’ll be honest with you ... But I don’t want to toot my own horn here. This was just a tremendous effort by the coaching staff and the kids buying into what we wanted to do, putting in the time and developing that winning attitude."
That upbeat attitude commenced at Holloway's introductory press conference this past January after he was officially hired the month before. The new coach set his game plan, spoke confidently about making MZ a winner and then got the ball rolling — and most importantly — got the players on board with what he was selling.
Holloway instituted a workout session during "zero" through first period, and that dedication carried into spring practice, where the MZ coaching staff started to feel it had something special on its hands.
"The coaches met after our [spring] scrimmage game and we were all very impressed with the way the kids worked and the way they got after it. We knew we had a long ways to go, but the heart and the desire was there. And as long as you have that, you know you’ve got something to build on,” Holloway said.
But come fall, there were no more dress rehearsals. Outside of the preseason scrimmage at Wadley (Ala.), they were all counters now.
The Eagles dominated the scrimmage, a glimpse of things to come over the coming months.
MZ started out 1-3 — of course, getting that 40-7 victory over North Cobb Christian in Game 2 was huge for the program and the first win at the newly-christened Mt. Zion Stadium — but the three losses probably said more about the character and potential of this team than anything.
The Eagles dropped the three ball games, including a 21-14 decision to eventual Class A state quarterfinal participant Walker, by a combined nine points.
Rather than hang their head and begin to revert backward, the Eagles answered in a major way — rattling off five consecutive wins, including dethroning three-time reigning Region 6-A champion Darlington in a 20-17 thriller on Oct. 26.
Mt. Zion went on to a 6-4 finish — the first winning season since 1996 — and earned the Region 6A-A championship.
Had it not been for a few glitches in the first go-around with the Georgia High School Association's crack at power rankings deciding the Class A state playoff qualifiers, the Eagles would have surely been in that field of 16.
MZ defeated three Class A state qualifiers during the regular season, including Trion, which reached the round of eight in the public school bracket.
And that proved to be the lone sour note on an otherwise tremendous season, but it's not one that takes anything away from what this group of players and the MZ coaching staff accomplished this fall.
Holloway said everyone walked away with their head held high, knowing they did something truly special in 2012.
“It was, and it was especially for the seniors. This group, they went through two or three losing seasons. And for them to hang in there and be able to go out as winners their senior year, I’m just so happy for them,” Holloway said.
And the inspiring story of the Eagle football program has helped spotlight the success throughout the entire Mt. Zion athletic program this year, where all of MZ is walking with a little more of a hop in its step these days.
“You can tell. The whole attitude, to me, in the school — and not just the football program being successful — but our softball team, our wrestling team, our basketball teams are successful, too. Right now, the kids at Mt. Zion have a good feeling about themselves. I think they feel like when they step on the field, the court or on the mat, they know they’ve got a chance to win — regardless of who the opponent is,” Holloway said.