HOLLY POND – Having the youngest football team in the county last season was what went on at Holly Pond High School. Facing programs that were experienced with juniors and seniors, the Broncos went into Friday night battles for first year coach Mike Bates with freshmen and sophomores.
Now the freshmen and sophomores are a year older and gaining maturity. Bates said Monday how pleased he is to see what the Broncos have done in the weight room during the offseason. "We are stronger physically than we were last season."
Sixteen Broncos who started last season in a tough year that ended 0-10 are ready to see better things on the gridiron in the fall of 2014.
"We seem to have more of a zip in our step," Bates added. "Our focus is better. We know what to expect. We have a little more urgency in our step. They have picked up on the weights. The attendance was better this summer. We are more mature and understand importance of all practices."
Michael Lambert was just 14 years of age last fall when he stepped on the field as quarterback for Holly Pond. Now with a season under his belt, the Broncos believe they can be more competitive on the field than they were for much of the previous year.
What the Broncos are looking for are results that everyone sees on the scoreboard. "If we can win early, it will be a tremendous shot in the arm for our program. We're paying attention to detail. Our kids have bought into our system, but not everyone yet. That is something we are working on right now."
Holly Pond opens the season at Brindlee Mountain Aug. 29. The series between the two is 2-2. The Lions won at Holly Pond last season 28-15 after the Broncos beat them in Brindlee Mountain 18-13 the previous season.
Sept. 5 sends the Broncos into Walker County for a 3A, Region 5 game with Oakman. The Broncos get their first game at Thomas-Michelfelder Field Sept. 12 when Collinsville comes from Dekalb County.
The Broncos are out to snap a 10-game losing streak on the home field when they face Collinsville. The last time the Broncos won at home was in the final game of the 2011 season, a 31-12 triumph over J.B. Pennington.
In week four, it's the Susan Moore Bulldogs in their annual showdown with the Broncos. This one takes place in Holly Pond.
The Broncos and the Fairview Aggies close out the first half of the regular season, Sept. 26 at Dafford Smith Stadium.
Holly Pond goes to Winston County in getting back to Region 5 play Oct. 3. Another rivalry resumes for the Broncos on Oct. 10 when the welcome the Vinemont Eagles to town for a regional game.
Oct. 17 will send the Broncos down Highway 31 into Ray Talley Stadium for a showdown with the Hanceville Bulldogs.
The regional schedule ends Oct. 24 at Holly Pond. The Broncos will host the Winfield Pirates.
On Oct. 30, the Broncos host the Cold Springs Eagles in the finale for both teams in the regular season.
Bates is a win shy of 150 in his prep coaching career. Before coming to Holly Pond, Bates was at St. Paul's in Mobile. He led the Saints to the 5A state title in 2007 with A.J. McCarron his quarterback.
McCarron went on to play at the University of Alabama. Bates had eight seasons at Cullman High School, leading the Bearcats to 46 wins, going 26-7 in his final three years (1998-2000) with the black and gold.
Bates started coaching in 1981 at Marion County High School. He has been on the sidelines in Alabama High School Athletic Association football for 26 years.