‘Angel’ looking down

Published 4:01 pm Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Escambia County Blue Devils Head Football Coach Lev Holly instructs his defense during practice Wednesday afternoon at Herbert Barnes Stadium.

An angel will be on the mind of new Escambia County Blue Devils Head Football Coach Lev Holly when he steps on the turf at Buddy Taylor Field tonight in East Brewton.

Holly will lead the Blue Devils in a spring contest against the W.S. Neal Eagles and the Linde Patriots, but while the game will be the first thing on his mind, his late mother will be a close second.

“It’s been a dream to become a head coach,” Holly said. “One of the big things will be that I have my mother as an angel in Heaven looking down on me. The first time, I went to the championship, she broke her ankle on Thursday and never made it to the game; that Tuesday she had surgery on her ankle and that Friday she passed away. I still carry that burden on my back. She always wanted to see me play or coach in a championship, so being able to win one last season was emotional. I know she is smiling down on me, which is I why I felt touched again on Mother’s Day weekend when I got the call that I was going to get to be a head coach. It will be a joyous occasion to lead this team and have a good time.”

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Holly – hired as the head coach last week – is a native of Jackson where he attended high school and played football for the Jackson Aggies.

He attended Alabama State University where he has secured bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is in the process of acquiring a doctorate.

Holly’s previous coaching duties include a four-year stint at Vigor High School where he coached defensive backs and was offensive coordinator. Following his time at Vigor, Holly found a job at his alma mater coaching the defensive backs and wide receivers ultimately becoming defensive coordinator of the Aggies in 2010. He helped lead Jackson to the Class 4A State Championship in 2011.

The experiences at the previous stop has Holly thinking that he was it takes to continue to build Escambia County High School’s football program.

“I’m working with the same types of athletes,” Holly said. “I’ll be putting a system in place that the kids will have to learn and buy into. It’s a process, but I think the process will take care of itself if we commit ourselves and put the right people in place. I believe my experiences at Vigor and Jackson will roll over and help me at Escambia County High School.”

Along with the system that Holly plans to put into play for the Blue Devils, outside factors will weigh heavily in the success of the program.

A support system from the community surrounding the team can help put the program on the proper path, Holly said.

“The community will really help build this program,” he said. “We had a great community at Vigor and a lot of gracious supporters at Jackson. That will help us get this program in the right direction. At the end of the day, it’s about this kids being able to enjoy the game and play with passion.”

As the process falls into place, the players will also be held accountable in Holly’s system.

Working at high standards on the field and off the field is a key that Holly wants his players to always abide by.

“There have to be guidelines and rules that are set, and you have to be firm and fair,” Holly said. “If a rule is made, every person has to follow it. I’m a coach that is not going to repeatedly suspend and bring back guys. You get two chances and then you’re gone. I feel like there are opportunities for everyone to play, and if a guy breaks a rule then another guys deserves a shot to show what he has.”

In the five days, that Holly has had with his new team, the good things surrounding the Blue Devils have been seen.

A solid foundation set forth by the previous head coach has Holly ready to continue to build the program.

“I have nothing negative to say,” he said. “These kids have worked hard, and I know they were working hard before I got here. Coach Heaton had some great things in place, and I plan to add on to those things.”

Now with a plan in play, the only thing left is execution, and Holly and the Blue Devils will get to begin that tonight at 6 p.m. in East Brewton, but with an angel looking down on them.