HOLLIDAY, TX (KAUZ) - Our Training Camp Road Trip continues in District 5-3A Div. II with the Holliday Eagles.
They won 7 games a year ago, but 6 of those wins came by a touchdown or less.
They're hoping a new addition can help them breathe a little easier in the 4th quarter this year.
"It gave our fans their money's worth," coach Frank Johnson said of last year's penchant for late-game heroics. "You never could leave early. But we would like to, in theory, score some points ahead of the 4th quarter this year."
Coach Johnson's Eagles seemed to be playing with fire all season long. Several games came right to the wire.
"[It] really gets you stressed out when it comes down to the last play," said senior lineman Jake Jones. "A field goal, or a punt return, or an overtime win."
Eventually, it came back to haunt them in a 3-point Bi-District loss to Whitewright. But still, the Eagles' grind-it-out style -- borne out of necessity with no real home-run threat in the backfield -- had some benefits.
"It allowed us to become a better football team," Coach Johnson said. "We just didn't score as fast."
"It helped us realize that we can't take any plays off," said Jones. "That any play can make the difference."
"It was going to take us 10-12 plays every time to go down the field and score," coach Johnson added.
This year, the Eagles will have that home run threat, in Archer City transfer Justin Jones. The running back came to Holliday a year ago, but had to play on JV last season as a junior due to transfer rules.
"Justin definitely was an All American JV player last year," coach Johnson joked. "He had a great year."
"I'm very eager," Justin said. "I've been excited since I was cleared to play this past January. And I'm ready to get out there and play with some more teammates."
What makes it extra special is that the two Joneses are cousins, finally getting to play as teammates this year.
"We've been playing against each other for years, since we were little kids when he was at Archer," Jake said. "So it's definitely a pretty surreal experience getting to play on the same team as him now."
The time on JV led to some big highlights as Justin faced some overmatched younger opponents. But more than that, it taught him about dealing with adversity.
"It was basic fundamentals and some more leadership skills," Justin said of his time on sub-varsity. "Going whenever everybody else doesn't feel like it, or going whenever it gets tough."
He should benefit from a veteran line, both in his role as tailback and also on defense, where he plays linebacker.
"We've got so many kids back, that that's got to be our headline," coach Johnson said. "I think the strength of our team is going to end up being our two fronts."
"We've ran this offense for three years now, and we have some speed coming back and some speed moving up," Jake said. "And also most of our starting offensive line is returning as well."
"They've gotten a lot stronger," Justin said of the Eagle linemen. "They're a lot smarter than last season. They're more experienced and I think that's going to help us in the long run."
The Eagles will also have experience under center, with coach Johnson's son Jett returning for his junior year.
"He has grown, outgrown his brothers and his daddy," coach Johnson said of his son. "He's probably 6'2", he's 175-180 pounds now and he's gotten a lot stronger. He's worked hard."
"Jett's a great quarterback," Justin said. "He's a great guy, he's a funny guy, and he likes practice to be intense and he likes it to be fun, too."
But when coach Johnson was asked if Jett and his receivers' growth this camp that meant they might show a bit more balance this season on offense, he was pretty direct about that:
"We've got Justin," he said. "Right now I plan on trying to give him the ball as much as possible."
The Eagles will open their season at home, on September 1st against the Paradise Panthers, who they edged 3-0 to open last season in a game that set the tone for that year.
Tuesday night, we'll continue in the district with the Nocona Indians.
Holliday Eagles 2017 Schedule
Sept. 1 vs Paradise, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 8 at Boyd, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 15 at Ponder, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 22 vs Bowie, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 29 at Iowa Park, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 BYE
Oct. 13 at Nocona, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 20 at City View, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 27 vs Henrietta, 7 p.m.*
Nov. 3 at Millsap, 7 p.m.*
Nov. 10 vs Jacksboro, 7 p.m.*