Glenn Hills is only two years removed from a winless season, but it seems like an eternity ago for the players under its current coaching staff.
Between unique jersey combinations to different activities and pregame meals, the ideas implemented by coach Nick Collins and his staff are paying off. It shows when he notices how his players carry themselves this season.
“The body language is totally different,” Collins said. “I told them in the meeting (Tuesday) this is the first time I’ve seen them go out and walk with confidence, walk with a little swagger, and actually look like they’re the ones being the bully instead of being bullied.”
Glenn Hills went 0-10 in 2015 and hired Collins for 2016, and the team quickly rebounded to go 4-7 and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Having already matched their win total from last season and shooting for their first winning record since 2008, the Spartans are now aiming for more than just a playoff berth. With an inside track on one of the region’s final seeds, it would mark their first back-to-back playoff appearances since the 1980s and the players want to advance once they get there.
“We’re coming together as a brotherhood and playing as a team,” senior quarterback Demontea Green said. “We’ve got more games to come and win. We want to go back to the playoffs and hopefully go farther than the first round this year.”
They’ve already picked up a big confidence boost by beating city rival Laney 32-14 this past Friday. It marked their first win over the Wildcats since 1997 and highest point total in the series in almost 30 years.
Junior running back Shahaun Stewart was the catalyst for Glenn Hills by rushing 31 times for 191 yards and a touchdown. Green passed for 164 yards and a score while adding 33 rushing yards. Tavis Price picked up three sacks on defense.
The results on the field have been spurred in part by Collins’ approach to his players.
He’s allowing the Spartans to branch out with their gear, such as wearing different socks and cleats, but still maintaining uniformity. The players have activities every day to keep them engaged, from study hall early in the week to clothing themes and music before practice.
“I feel we have the best coaching staff in the city,” Green said. “We eat different meals every Friday before the game, different uniforms every Friday. You can’t ask for anything better. If we just come out and play, they’ve got our back.”
Collins said his players are buying into the approach. He meets with former Glenn Hills athletic director and coach James Quarles every Thursday to talk, and he told Quarles that last Tuesday’s practice was the best since he’s been at Glenn Hills. Every player showed up to practice and was on time throughout the week leading up to the Laney game.
“It’s just different to see the kids because they have confidence,” Collins said. “I think a lot of that comes from the coaches because when we left our meeting on Sunday, we looked at each other like, ‘Guys, we’re the best football team for a change.’ We instilled that in our kids and it made a world of difference.”
Collins also attributes his coaching staff for relaying the correct messages in the players and promoting unity. With three regular-season games left, a unified Glenn Hills team will attempt to tackle the challenge of further building a new culture.
“We have a lot of players keeping our heads on straight on and off the field,” Stewart said. “This year, we’ve really come together, playing as a team, really started to bond and work hard.”