This time last season, the Holy Spirit Prep football team was in the midst of transition.
Then-first-year head coach Shawn Coury had a late start to the summer after being hired in May, the coaching staff wasn’t complete and the players were still adjusting to the changes at the start of the 2016 season, which saw the Cougars win only one contest.
Coming into the 2017 season, there’s a sense of optimism in the Holy Spirit Prep program.
“Things are great,” Coury said. “We had a great summer, the boys put in a lot of work in weight room and on the field. We feel prepared and went to LaGrange for camp, where the players worked hard.”
The Cougars are ready to start a new season this fall in Region 1AAA within Class AAA of the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA).
“The boys have a better understanding of expectations,” Coury said. “Last summer, they learned a new offense and defense. We starting lifting last November through this May. Spending time together has gotten them prepared. This summer we worked on the same scheme. The players are more familiar, which makes them more comfortable, which makes them more confident and comfortable.”
Coury is also optimistic about having a full coaching staff of six compared to three last season. “The kids are learning from them,” he said.
Senior Demorius Taylor will be a main target as a wide receiver on offense while also seeing time as a linebacker defensively. “He’s going to do good things for us with (his) speed and experience,” Coury said. The rest of the wide receiver corps for the Cougars will include senior Ryan Harrison will also be at linebacker and sophomore Johnny Di Palma.
“Johnny has great athletic ability and (is) emerging for us,” Coury said.
Getting the ball to the players will be its returning starting quarterback, junior James English. “He’s more comfortable with the decisions he has to make,” Coury said.
Junior tailback/linebacker Watson Casal will also see time as a starter this season. “We’re proud of the way he ran at our scrimmage,” Coury said.
The offensive and defensive lines will be led by junior Conner McKittrick. “He’s gotten stronger and committed himself in the offseason,” Coury said. “He’ll be the anchor and leader of our lines because of his experience.”
A newcomer to the team in junior Ben Ambo will also be a starter on both sides of the ball as a lineman. “Ben didn’t miss a workout and he’s committed to the program,” Coury said. “He’s smart and picks up the offense (quickly).”
The defense will also be led by junior linebacker Josh Oliver. “He showed improvement last season and will be a leader and key to the linebacker group,” Coury said.
After the struggles of last season, Holy Spirit Prep has gone back to basics for future success.
“We spent a lot of time this summer on fundamentals because those are things you have to do to play this game,” Coury said. “That carries over to execution in games. The boys’ effort in the offseason has given me a preview. I’m impressed with it and that will help us win games this season."
Aug. 12 Flint River
Aug. 18 at Frederica
Aug. 25 at Notre Dame Academy
Sept. 8 at Bethlehem Christian
Sept. 16 Southland
Sept. 22 Heritage
Sept. 29 at Monsignor Donovan
Oct. 6 at Trinity Sharpsburg
Oct. 13 Loganville Christian
Oct. 21 Dominion Christian
Team name: Cougars
Team colors: Green and gold
Head coach: Shawn Coury
Record at school: 1-9-0
Georgia head coaching record: 1-9-0
Governing body: Georgia Independent School Association (GISA)
Last season: 1-9 (1-4)
2016 state playoffs: No
All-time record: 51-80-0
State championship: 1 (2011)