Mark Hollars remembers being the interim head coach at North Cobb Christian in 2016 after Jake Sorg, hired four months prior, resigned days before the season opener.
When Hollars first accepted the head job, he had no intention of sticking around another year, but as the Eagles suffered through a winless season, the challenges of building a program started growing on him.
Now in his fourth season, including the last three as the official head coach, Hollars’ spring practices ran like clockwork.
“It’s nice to do the same thing on offense and defense,” Hollars said. “Everyone knows how we practice. We’re all taking from the same hymnal, and that makes a big difference. We now have kids in the program who can take off from Day 1.”
The majority of the 47 players on North Cobb Christian’s roster fully understand the spread-option offense and 50 defense that Hollars installed, and the Eagles picked up where they left off.
Just two years after going 0-10, North Cobb Christian put together a landmark 10-2 season that included the program’s inaugural playoff berth, playoff win and a trip to the Class A private-school state quarterfinals.
Now, Hollars plans to both rebuild and maintain after North Cobb Christian graduated 14 seniors.
One of the departed seniors is quarterback Jake Watson, leaving rising senior Anson Mathis and sophomores Levi Brown and Luke Brock competing for the position. There are also position battles to replace linebacker Timothy Walker and receiver Kyle Pierre.
“One of the things we try to stress to them is that every year is a new year,” Hollars said. “Even though we have a nucleus of kids coming back, we lost 14 seniors, and different people have to step up. The team has to kind of rebuild, and the trust between players comes with reps at practice. We came out of spring liking the work ethic and attitude.”
North Cobb Christian is returning both of its top running backs. Rising senior Ryan Pruitt rushed for 457 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, while junior Sharnard Banks added another 419 yards and three touchdowns. Kollin Washington is another option after rushing for 318 yards and two touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, North Cobb Christian is expecting big things from rising junior defensive lineman Carson Groulx and senior inside linebacker Austin Mathis.
“We have to keep getting better,” Hollars said. “Last year, what made us unique was that we got better as the season went on. We want to sustain that playoff-caliber program.”