After breaking summer camp in August with eight players on the roster, first-year coach Andre Taylor was just hoping to fill out a roster by week one.
Fast forward two months and Holy Spirit is undefeated in Glory for Christ (GFC) league play and trying to lock up the No. 1 overall seed in the GFC playoffs this Friday.
“We’ve had some up-and-downs that come with having such a young team but the biggest piece of the whole thing is that we’ve been able to work our numbers up through the year,” said Taylor.
Starting with eight players, Taylor said the team grew to 12 by early August and into the high teens by its season opener. The team now has 28 players on the roster, enough to practice with a two-deep at every position.
“You just can’t do some things in practice when you have 10 or 12 kids,” said the Holy Spirit coach. “We’ve been able to improve that depth and now we can focus on teaching kids specific positions instead of having to throw the whole playbook at them.”
With an ever-changing roster, the Cougars (4-3 overall, 4-0 in GFC West Division play) have seen a number of new faces step into starring roles.
Freshman Connor Whelan has emerged as a budding star at running back, rushing for 150 yards in a win over Home School Depot last month. Taylor said Whelan’s success is a product of a strong offensive line led by junior Sam Grisham, and the Cougars’ defense has been solid behind the play of linebackers Drew Vincent and Daniel Young.
Last Friday Holy Spirit locked up a playoff spot with a 26-0 win over the North Atlanta Saints and will now play GFC’s only other undefeated team, North Georgia, in its season finale this Friday.
“For us to be in this position right now feels really good,” Taylor said of the Cougars' postseason outlook. “For it to be my first year and losing as many kids as we did, it’s just great. I know the kids are enjoying it but they also aren’t satisfied either.
"I’m anticipating a good week of practice this week and a really good showing on Friday night."
The GFC playoffs will feature six teams, three from each division, playing for the championship trophy. A win on Friday gives the Cougars the No. 1 seed from the West Division and a first-round playoff bye. A loss to North Georgia would drop Holy Spirit to the No. 2 seed and pit them against the third seed from the East Division in round one.