By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Rich Adkins knows there are different expectations that await him in Hollister. It is by no means a blank slate, but the 8-year-old football program is still looking for consistent success.
Adkins could bring that mentality after a 17-7 record in two seasons at Mountain Grove.
Jacob Hamon had been a part of the Hollister staff every year since the program began and spent the last three as head coach, but took an opening on Branson’s staff this offseason to open the door for Adkins.
Family was the main motivator for the move, but Adkins welcomes this new challenge.
“The expectations are something we will have to create,” he said. “There aren’t the dads, uncles, or brothers that have gone through the program yet. That’s part of the fun, where you have the chance to create the culture and what you envision for a winning program.”
Hollister went 2-8 last season while Adkins and Mountain Grove pushed through injuries to reach their second straight district championship game. Adkins brought his offensive line coach over to run the Tigers defense, but much of the previous staff remains in place.
This season doesn’t just mark a fresh start at the helm, but for the entire Hollister program with the move to the Big 8 East Division. Adkins battled several of these new faces such as Lamar and Aurora during his time at Mountain Grove and knows the task that lies ahead.
“(Those teams) expect to win and we have to do a lot to catch up. Our kids will see what it’s going to take. We’ve tried to stress that we’re joining one of the best conference in the state. We have to get better each day, otherwise we’re going to get left in the dust.”
Linebacker Josh Neville graduated after being the lone Tiger to earn an All-COC nod, but seven seniors are back on top of a dozen starters. Logan Armitage is one of them and expects to lead the pass-catching duties while bolstering the secondary. He led Hollister with 41 receptions for 558 yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore.
He also nabbed a team-high three interceptions.
Seniors Jesse Wright, Logan Narvaez, and Garrett Moody all primarily worked as linebackers in 2017, but Adkins plans to use them all out of the backfield. Wright and Moody got sparse touches as juniors as they combined for 353 total yards on 29 catches.
Wright also notched 81 tackles while Narvaez tallied 76.
Sophomore Layton Morgan could usher in a youth movement at quarterback. He has taken all of the first-team reps this summer after throwing for 406 yards and three scores in 2017.
There are question marks on the offensive and defensive line, mostly due to numbers. Senior Dillon Barber will be the anchor of the unit and will have to help smooth the learning curve of those around him.
If that can happen, Adkins believes the Tigers can finish the year strong.
“Our speed can match up with a lot of the guys we play,” he said. “It’s a matter of getting us as comfortable with the system as possible. Come halfway through the year to district time, if we’re healthy, we can have a pretty good team.”