The Holland boys have turned Decatur Heritage Christian Academy football into their version of backyard family football.
Senior Jordan Holland is the quarterback or safety. Junior Sawyer Holland is at running back or linebacker. Little brother Sterling is an eighth-grade reserve wide receiver.
Coaching all three is stepbrother Ty Patterson, a varsity assistant coach and junior varsity head coach.
And their parents, Neal and Sherry Holland, will be worrying in the stands.
The family will be involved in one of the biggest games in the fledgling Eagles’ short football history. A victory could mean making the playoffs if the tiebreakers fall for Decatur Heritage (4-4 overall and 3-3 in the region).
“A win would be huge for our program,” Jordan said. “We already feel we’ve exceeded expectations, but it would be huge for us to beat a team like R.A. Hubbard.”
Jordan and Sawyer are key cogs in the Eagles’ fourth season as a program. The 6-foot, 3-inch, 180-pound Jordan is the quiet one with a strong-arm that makes the Eagles’ spread offense go, head coach Steve Meek said.
A three-year starter, Jordan has passed for 1,433 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
“He’s quiet but I’ve seen him get on a teammate who is not working hard or give a passionate speech at halftime,” Meek said. “The guys respond to him. They hate to see him get hit when he drops back to pass.”
Mired at tight end in a run-first offense, Jordan almost quit after his freshman season. Meek arrived and moved him to quarterback in a pass-first offense.
“I didn’t like football,” Jordan said. “But Coach Meek convinced me to give it a chance. Now it’s a lot of fun.”
Jordan has become Meek’s coach on the field, even correcting the coach’s mistakes on a play call.
Sawyer is a polar opposite personality from Jordan. The junior is outgoing comedian who plays bigger that his 5-8, 155-pound size. He can be elusive but he’s not afraid to take on an opposing running back or blitzing linebacker.
“He’s one of the smaller linebackers you’ll see, but that doesn’t stop him from taking on the bigger guys,” Patterson said. “He’s put in a lot of additional work to learn technique.”
The brothers said there’s almost no sibling rivalry even though Jordan has been known to play burn-out — throw the ball as hard as he can — to Sawyer in practice.
“Sawyer doesn’t have the best of hands, but he’s got to where he can catch my hardest throws,” Jordan said.
Sawyer had a frustrating sophomore year in which he could not seem to get that first touchdown.
“It seemed like there was a force field on the end zone,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer finally broke through in a big way in the fourth game this season, scoring five touchdowns against Tharptown.
“That was a night I’ll never forget, particularly because two of the touchdowns were passes from Jordan,” said Sawyer, who has 593 yards rushing and nine touchdowns this season.
Jordan said he was “pumped” for little brother.
“I was kind of worried it might go to his head, but it didn’t blow up too big,” Jordan said.
Patterson, 34, is the oldest of seven children. He was 13 before the next Holland sibling was born. He has been coaching the others in youth sports and the backyard for so long that coaching them in football is normal part of their life.
Patterson admitted he’s probably little harder on his brothers than the other players, but they don’t notice.
“We love Ty as a person and being around him,” Jordan said. “It’s great to have someone to talk to when I come off the field.”
Jordan and Sawyer have already begun coaching Sterling. Sawyer said he is looking forward to mentoring younger brother next year as Patterson, Jordan and Jackson, a brother who graduated two years ago, did for him.
“Sterling is more like me than Jordan,” Sawyer said. “He’s small but he’s going to be a good player.”
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