After going 7-4 and falling to George Walton in the first round of the Class A Private playoffs, Holy Innocents’ is looking to compete for the Region 5 title and advance to the postseason once again.
The Golden Bears return eight starters on offense and five on defense from that team, which had its playoff loss to George Walton negated when that school had to forfeit six games after violating multiple Georgia High School Association rules.
Holy Innocents’ lost five key starters who graduated: QB/P Marshall Nichols (Mississippi State punting signee), S Bo Maxwell, CB Tyquann Alexander (Shorter University signee), S Landon Kardian (Kennesaw State signee) and OT Mac Mitchell.
But the Golden Bears return several top players, including seven seniors, all of which are being recruited by colleges – DE Luca Chuecos (California transfer; looks from Samford, Furman and other FCS schools), LB James Gleeson (Merchant Marine Academy and others), NG Charlie Mallady (small schools), OL Jakobe Harmon (FCS schools), OL Mikey Bennett (FCS schools), RB Joe Hingson (small schools) and RB/S Wyatt Lybrook (Division II schools) – junior RB/OLB Drew Bomar (Division II schools) and sophomore DE Jacobi Murray (Georgia Tech).
Holy Innocents’ also expects to get contributions from juniors Joey Holiday (S) and William Wright (QB) and sophomore WR/CB Zach Jackson, who played some on offense last year.
“I think If we stay healthy, we can be highly competitive again,” head coach Todd Winter said. “We were highly competitive last year, if you look at our scores except the Marist game. This is a team that can be competitive in every game.
“Our toughest game (early on) is (against) Christ School in North Carolina, the defending state champions. We also play Christ Church School in South Carolina and … (defending A Private champ) Prince Avenue. We feel like we’ll be very competitive in our region. Wesleyan and us are the teams to beat.”
Winter said he’s excited the team is returning to normal in terms of having spring practice and summer workouts, competitions and camps as it remains a perennial playoff contender.
“When we came here in ’17, they had not been in the playoffs for a while, but we’ve been in the playoffs three years in a row, and it’s been a long time since we did that,” he said. “The two big disappointments last year was being region runner-up and losing to Wesleyan 20-13. But honestly, we are happy to be playing football. We can go to camp. I think not being able to go to camp (last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic), because our whole philosophy is based on servant leadership and brotherhood, it was very hard last year because all summer we were in pods.
“The younger kids were not around the older kids, and the first time the kids came together as a team was the first day of practice. This year has been really different. We’ve got great players, but we win because we play as a team. We’re fortunate to have this many guys (offered college scholarships). I’ve never had this many guys offered on one team. We have a really strong line and are really excited about our offensive and defensive line.”