After playing as a member of the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) in 11-man football in 2017, Holy Spirit Prep has made a change for this upcoming season. The program will participate in eight-man football within the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association (GICAA) for its 2018 campaign.

The squad has resumed summer workouts coming off the Fourth of July holiday ready to prepare for the new season.

“The players have been great,” Cougars coach Shawn Coury said. “The work ethic and attitude has been there. The guys seem to be having fun and pushing themselves pretty hard. They’re in pretty good shape heading into our first game. They come out here every day and give everything they have.”

The coaching staff also tries to balance the physical and mental strains of summer workouts with allowing the players to rest during the non-academic portion of their year.

“An entire session which includes a team meeting, work on the field and (work) in the weight room is around an hour and a half,” Coury said. “We go four days a week and are off on Friday to give the players a three-day weekend. We ask our players to make a commitment to the team. We have 24 opportunities to work out and ask them to make 16 sessions as a goal. We won’t have every player in town every day such as a player who’s at a military camp to prepare for the United States Naval Academy, so we work with them. When the players are in town, they want to be together.”

The summer sessions don’t involve installation of the schemes but work on other areas of the team.

“Our numbers are small right now and we don’t know when we’ll have the whole team together,” Coury said. “Everything we do in the summer is based on fundamentals. We have drills for tackling, ball handling, footwork and agility. We also lift weights and have conditioning. We want the players to be strong and in good shape to make it through the long season.”

The Cougars have seen marked improvement in its program after winning only one game in Coury’s first campaign in 2016. Holy Spirit increased its win total to three games last year.

“We’re trying to build momentum for the program,” the coach said. “The attitude has been phenomenal. We want to go out and try to win six games this year, nine the year after that, however it works.”

The Cougars’ varsity roster will only include 12 players, which has spurred the move to eight-man football in the GICAA for 2018.

“We had a small eighth-grade group move up to varsity this year, so that prompted the move,” Coury said. “Hopefully we’ll have a larger number of middle-schoolers move up in the future to return to 11-man football. Many teams in our area, including us, move between the two types of football based on numbers.”

The Cougars’ middle-school program plays exclusively in eight-man football, which has helped the transition for this upcoming season.

“Many of our varsity players did eight-man football in middle school and are familiar with it,” Coury said. “The offense will be different because you have to have five players on the line instead of seven. We want to spread guys out, which means you only have three offensive linemen. That changes the scheme and presents a different challenge. The blocking and tackling is the same and we’re facing teams similar to us. It’s fun because the game is fast and high-scoring with extra space on the field.”

Top returners for the team will include senior lineman Angel Anaya, who became the team’s starting center last season in his first year playing football. Senior linebacker/offensive back Josh Oliver, sophomore running back William Schulman, junior tight end/linebacker Will Stinnett and junior lineman Jesus Anaya also come back for the Cougars.

Holy Spirit opens its 2018 campaign at Monsignor Donovan in Athens Aug. 17.

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