Coming off a season featuring plenty of young talent, the Holy Ground Baptist Academy football team expects to be young again this year after losing five players expected to return.
It’s a situation head coach Jamie Perry has been in before and one he knows how to handle. While it is not ideal when the expectations were to bring back a more veteran core, even if still a little young, the Stallions still have talent to work with and high expectations for what the group can accomplish this year and in the future.
“It’s frustrating. It seems like in private schools you start over more than you do in public schools, but every year we have some young guys that step up and just surprise you. I don’t want to say we’re disappointed because it’s just a good opportunity for these young guys to step in there and make plays and get more playing time they wouldn’t have gotten,” Perry said. “When we find that core group that’s going to stay together and is going to stick it out, they’re going to be a good group of ball players.”
The hardest hit spot was the line of scrimmage that will return just Chris Organ and Brock Wright. They'll be instrumental in helping a big, but young line come around this year.
“We’re going to be real young starting over again, but just reloading. The positive side is our line’s probably going to be faster than we’ve ever had. We’ve got some young guys there. We’re going to be bringing in an upcoming freshman starting at guard and center, then we’ll have a couple juniors beside them,” Perry said. “We’re not actually small, we’ll probably average about 6-foot, 200 [pounds] across the front. Can't complain about that.”
The biggest positive could be in the backfield with rising sophomores Jackson Yates and Brady Yates. With Jackson back at quarterback and brother Brady again at fullback, Holy Ground has a little bit of an advantage.
This year the Stallions are going to implement the read option a little bit and having a pair of twins run it doesn’t hurt the chemistry and understanding of the formality.
“Looking for Brady to get more touches than he did last year. He’s a real quick back. To be so young, he sees the field really well. He’s a strong runner, hard to take down,” Perry said. “Jackson coming back definitely will be a big anchor for us. We got him a little bit of experience two years ago and got to run the whole thing last year. Had a great year, looking forward to turning him loose a little bit.”
That helps the Stallions know what they’re getting into moving forward. Plenty will be the same, just some players going into some newer, bigger roles earlier than expected.
“We know who we are, we know our identity. We’re not like everybody else who’s having to put in something new. Everybody kind of knows what to expect, they know what to expect of me and they know what to expect from me,” Perry said. “The relationship’s there and I feel like we’re ahead of the game in the spring.”
One of those players is Demontrea Ackey, the only senior on the roster with playing experience. In his first year last year Ackey had plenty to learn, now the hope is he can use that and his ability on the field.
“He played Z-back for us last year and has really come on for us this year. Speed-wise, he’ll probably be the fasted kid we’ve ever had. And he’s learning the game. He’s learned a lot. Last year was a big eye-opener for him,” Perry said. “We were fortunate we didn’t have to put him in the role of full time last year, but this year he’ll definitely be stepping up to start at Z-back and start at corner for us.”
The Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association is also seeing some growth and changes. With 135 schools in the association and around 45-50 of them playing 8-man football, there will be some changes to the way the schedule is formatted. That will mean some teams that have been regulars on the Holy Ground schedule won’t be there this year, but it adds some new teams to play.
“We’re actually splitting into two divisions. Everybody’s going to play a pool conference play and then you’re going to have a conference champion and a region champion and on to a state champion. Hopefully, as that continues to build, we can still do that, and still have 50 to 60 teams come to play,” Perry said.
As far as this summer — following the spring game on Friday night — the Stallions will get to work off the field. As important as game plan and execution is, the focus of the summer will be on getting stronger, faster and gaining stamina before getting to work in July, starting with a passing camp at Colonial Hills.
“You don’t ever know what’s going to happen over the summer. A guy could get hurt during workouts and you lose him or a parent move-in or move-out. We’re still hoping for another move-in or two, especially at the skill position,” Perry said. “We don’t touch a ball that much until July, but we will get after it in the weight room and conditioning. That’s probably where we’ll need it the most with most of our guys having to go both ways.”