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Holly Hill Academy High School

Shelley sees 2017 Raiders need to gain toughness

 

By David Shelton

Senior Writer

Holly Hill – Veteran head coach Don Shelley has seen enough football in his storied career to be able to capably evaluate his teams. The coach has a good handle on his 2017 squad at Holly Hill Academy.

Shelley has guided the program to 27 wins over the last three seasons and says this year’s unit can be another competitive bunch, if they can do one major thing.

“We have to get tougher, mentally and physically,” Shelley said after his team’s 26-20 season-opening loss to Patrick Henry Academy. “We’ve got some young ones out there on the field right now and they just have to grow up and get tougher. It’s hot and they get tired but we have to be able to push through that stuff. It will come. It’s an adjustment for those young ones. But if we can toughen up and push past that stuff, we have a chance to be real competitive.”

Shelley’s team held a 20-18 lead midway through the fourth quarter in the opener only to allow a late score.

“I thought we did some good things but we saw a lot of things we need to correct,” Shelley said. “These early games will help us improve if we put in the work.”

The Raiders posted an 11-2 record in their first season back in eight-man football.

This year’s roster includes only six seniors so most of the team is comprised of underclassmen. One returning senior leader is quarterback Nick Strickland, who will be the primary weapon offensively. Strickland is more effective as a runner but Shelley is hoping to find a more consistent passing game this fall.

“We need to be balanced,” the coach said. “People know we’re going to run a lot but if we can be consistent throwing the ball we are going to be a lot harder to defend.”

Senior Demetrius Abraham and junior Even Boyd will handle most of the duties at running back, with Zack Pelani seeing work at fullback. Junior Grayson Hopkins is the top receiver with senior tight end Hanks Avinger being a factor at end.

The starters along the three-man offensive front include senior Chandler Weatherford, junior Jason Herron and freshman Dyson Dantzler. Weatherford is the only starter with some level of experience.

Weatherford and Avinger are working at end on the defensive side of the ball. Senior Jason Lutz returns at tackle but is battling a bum knee early on. Hunter Hufham is also working inside.

Strickland and Pelani are starting linebackers while Boyd and Abraham are working at corner. Hopkins and Sam Montgomery are the starting safeties.

 

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