Holly rebounds from 1-2 start, hosts Ortonville Brandon on Friday for a spot in state playoffs
Holly – It would have easy for the players at Holly to be down after the Bronchos lost back-to-back games each by one point following an impressive win in the opener against Berkley. Holly was 0-9 last season and the program has had limited success in its history (Holly has won one league title, 2011, since 1952).
Instead the Bronchos buckled their chin straps and got back to work, and now they’re one victory away from making the state playoffs for what would be just the fourth time in school history.
“It’s a great turnaround,” coach Ryan Culloty said. “(Last season) was brutal. We only had 12 seniors last year and we have 19 now, and it’s a huge difference. It’s been night and day.”
Holly had lost five consecutive games to Swartz Creek but ended that streak with a 21-13 victory last Friday.
Holly (5-3) will host Flint Metro League foe Ortonville Brandon (5-3) on Friday at 7 p.m. with the winner advancing to the playoffs and the loser likely out.
It’ll be a crazy Friday as 90 teams enter the regular-season finale with 5-3 records, a win away from clinching a playoff spot. Of those 34 are in Class A, 22 in Class B, 26 in Class C and eight in Class D. With just 165 teams already in, that leaves 91 spots open in the 256-team, eight-division field.
Safe to conclude that there will be quite a few teams with 5-4 records getting in as additional playoff qualifiers.
Missed conversions cost Holly against Williamston (7-6) in the second game and in the third game against Linden (14-13). The Bronchos have won four of five since setting up the regular season-ending showdown.
“We didn’t have a bad practice after those losses,” Culloty said. “It definitely could have gone the other way.”
Holly has three, three-year starters and Adam Tooley is a four-year starter. Tooley plays linebacker, safety and running back, and has football in his blood.
His father is David Tooley who was a fine receiver at Lake Orion. Tooley was on staff at his alma mater under coach Chris Bell but this season he joined Culloty’s staff. Also on board is Adam Tooley’s uncle, Darren, who played quarterback at Lake Orion. He joined Culloty’s staff this season, too.
Culloty previously coached at Madison Heights Madison and he guided the Eagles to the Division 5 title game in 2006. He took over at Holly in 2008 after Mike Millhouse resigned. Millhouse returned to Holly this season as Culloty’s assistant. Culloty said Millhouse has been instrumental in improving the team’s weight-training program.
One of Davis Tooley’s responsibilities is working with the special teams. Holly has blocked two punts this season and Culloty said the play of his special teams have given his team an edge.
“The seniors kid me this year,” Culloty said. “They say I’m smiling a lot more. It’s not as stressful for me. We’re doing great. It’s been a lot of fun being around this group.”
Other teams had a rough go at the start and have turned their season around. Livonia Franklin started 2-3 and the Patriots have won three straight. A victory at Royal Oak on Friday will put coach Chris Kelbert’s team in the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Two weeks ago Franklin trailed Livonia Churchill 7-0 before storming back for a 43-27 victory. Last Friday, behind quarterback Denzel Adams, the Patriots held on to defeat Salem 49-42. Adams rushed for 205 yards and four touchdowns, and threw a touchdown pass.
Oak Park opened the season at Zeeland West (8-0) and lost 42-34. The Knights lost their next two including a one-point loss to Farmington (5-3) to start 0-3 but have reeled off five straight victories since including an impressive 50-14 victory over Southfield (5-3) last Friday to be in position to qualify.
The schedule maker didn’t do Oak Park any favors as it’ll have to defeat two-time defending Division 1 champion Clarkston (6-2) to receive an automatic bid.