By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Rich Adkins returns for his third season at the helm of Hollister Football and the expectations are among the highest the program has ever seen. The Tigers went 4-6 last season, matching the second-most wins in program history. With 19 starters returning, Hollister is a team that could make some noise this fall.
Leading that charge will be the three-headed monster of seniors Layton Morgan, Kelby Gard and Konner Hatfield.
Morgan passed for 804 yards and seven touchdowns, Gard led Hollister in every major rushing category (151 carries, 885 yards, 9 TD) and Hatfield did the same in every receiving statistic (35 receptions, 464 yards, 3 TD).
All three are also defensive starters.
“Layton has started every game at quarterback the last two years,” said Adkins. “He has a good grasp of the offense and has a very strong arm. Kelby is a tough runner with good speed. He can be a tough tackle for defenses. He doesn’t let one guy bring him down. Konner is a playmaker on offense and defense. He definitely has a nose for the ball. He is fun to watch on Friday Nights.”
There’s plenty of depth and experience around them as well.
All-Big 8 pick AJ Narvaez will anchor the offensive and defensive lines. The junior led the team with nine tackles for loss last year.
“AJ is an excellent lineman,” said Adkins. “We love to run the ball behind him and he also can be a big disruption on the defensive side of the ball.”
He’ll be joined up front by classmates Isaac Evins and Zak Zahner. Seniors Greyson Clary and Danny Gimlen will also help establish some physicality up front, while Michael Collins and Tristen Cooner are also battling for reps on both sides of the ball.
Evins was also an All-Big 8 selection.
“Isaac is another solid offensive lineman that we love to run behind,” said Adkins. “He gets his pad level right, he can really move some people. Pound for pound, Zak is our strongest kid. He started every game at guard last year and will be needed on both sides of the ball this year. Danny has been a two year starter at center. He is very consistent and reliable. He continues to improve daily.”
Seniors Cody Johnson and Layne Bruck, All-Big 8 picks at linebacker and tight end respectively, are two more bright spots of experience and talent. Both will again be counted on to start on both sides of the ball.
Seniors Xavier Stovall, Julien Parker and Austin Gauer will compete for receiving and secondary reps, along with juniors Tristen Parker, Isaac Qualls and Tyler Goeble.
Senior Lucas Bare and sophomore Blake Russell will see action at running back and linebacker.
Senior Rylan Newell and junior Michael Schultz will specialize at their linebacking spots.
Hollister is still in its infancy as they build the foundation of their program. It hasn’t always produced wins, but the blocks have been laid for the successes of the last two years to allow this group to prosper.
“This is an exciting time,” said Adkins. “We are ready to get the season started. We have taken a lot of positive steps over the last two years. We are hoping that we have made it through some of the growing pains and are ready to take the next step. We will rely heavily on our large senior class as most of them have been starters since they were sophomores. We will continue to try to win in the trenches and limit big plays on the defensive side of the ball.”
Hollister will open the 2020 season on Aug. 28, at home, against Monett.