North Cobb Christian "Brotherhood" (photo courtesy Tracy Hollars)
Kennesaw, Ga - The term "Brotherhood" can get a bit redundant if you live in the metro Atlanta area and pay any attention to the local NFL team's head coach. But, brotherhood is real. If you ask North Cobb Christian head coach Mark Hollars, he'll tell you it's the reason his football team is breaking new ground at the Kennesaw private school.
"It fits into our 'team first' mentality," Hollars told FOX 5 Sports. "The brotherhood means we truly love each other and we function as a team first."
The Eagles have been playing football for 12 years, this is their third season as a member of the GHSA, playing in Region 6-A Private. A week before North Cobb Christian was to make their GHSA debut in 2016, their head coach Jake Sorg resigned for personal reasons. Hollars took over and suffered through a tumultuous 0-10 season in which they averaged just nine points per game.
"We're building tradition to be honest with you, and things started to really change last year when we played Walker for a shot at making the playoffs," said Hollars. "We lost the game 28-21 but we played so much better in the second half of the season. I think at that point the kids decided 'we can do this'- we can play for each other. Ten seniors from that Walker game, who are in college now, showed up to support our team at this year's home opener last week (against Walker). That's what I mean by brotherhood."
Hollars' Eagles are 2-0 for the first time in school history and the energy around campus is spreading like wildfire. When students, faculty and parents found out that their team was on the High 5 Sports Team of the Week Facebook poll, they organized a lethal voting campaign that took down three 7-A schools including Cobb County's own Kennesaw Mountain Mustangs. The Eagles finished with over 6,000 votes to earn their first Team of the Week award. They'll celebrate together when Buck Lanford and the Good Day Atlanta team visit the school for a morning pep rally this Thursday.
North Cobb Christian runs the triple option, mixing in some spread formations on occasion. Quarterback Jake Watson ran for 100 yards versus Walker, and the team as a whole churned out 438 yards on the ground in their 48-30 win. Slot Back Ryan Pruitt is known as a fearless blocker who averages 10 yards per carry and 10 yards per reception to go along with five touchdowns on the young season.
Hollars comes from a defensive background, learning the the Slant-and-Angle 3-4 defensive scheme from his great uncle Joe Vadini and uncle Dan D'Orazio back in his native Ohio. The Eagles' version of the defense involves slanted defensive linemen filling gaps while one of the linebackers becomes involved in the pass rush, causing confusion for the opposing offensive line. Hollars has just the right players in the middle supporting his defensive line. Senior outside linebacker Tim Walker can rush the passer while the inside is clogged up by Chandler Tolar who plays the game like and old school middle linebacker- ala Dick Butkus or Tommy Nobis.
A tough road game in Monticello (1-1) awaits, but coach Hollars is confident his team will compete for the win. His goal is to lead the Eagles to their first playoff appearance, which will be tough considering Christian Heritage and Darlington are both on their region schedule. But the coach says his faith is what brought him to North Cobb Christian, and it's that same faith that will guide his players through the season.
"It's a God thing," Hollars says of his decision to leave the D.C. area to come south a few years ago. "We wanted to raise our kids in a more spiritual way. The community has really welcomed us and we're so thankful for that"
"We don't talk about the future or the past on this football team, Hollars said."We focus on the game in front of us.Work ethic is something we can control, and we're gonna do that."
It's all part of the brotherhood.