Zito is zealous for ninth grade football

Jared Zito, head football coach at Ola High School, plans for the added ninth grade football team to bring long-standing benefits to the Ola football program.

Coach Jared Zito focuses in on the play at the first ninth grade game against the Hampton Hornets. Zito hoped the team would prevail during the game, but resulted in a loss.

Sav Simpson , Opinions Editor

A ninth grade football team is heading to the stadium under the direction of head football coach Jared Zito in his efforts to further develop the Ola High football program.

In the last several years, Zito has refrained from creating a ninth grade team outlet due to the amount of players and their specific positions they fill. Zito mentioned that many of the current juniors played up on the varsity level with a very small sophomore class to work with.

“We felt like this year with the upcoming ninth grade group, of around 39 or so, that we would want to have those guys to try to play together as one group,” Zito said.

Preferably, Zito wants to involve the new ninth graders as soon as possible. Zito believes that getting them into the program as soon as possible helps develop practice ethics for the summer and work out skills for the January workouts.

“It helps them mature as ninth grade men; I mean, ninth grade year is tough for everyone,” Zito stated.

However, finding other schools in the area with three football teams is an issue Zito and the coaching staff have to face. According to Zito, not many high schools have three football teams, he only recalls Dutchtown and Stockbridge.

“What we are finding is a lot of schools are struggling to have three teams. A lot of them are choosing between a JV and ninth grade team,” Zito stated.

Along with other Henry County schools, Heritage in Conyers and Alcovy in Convington are placed on the game schedule for the ninth grade team. With the help of Coach Kevin Whitley of Stockbridge High School, Zito has incorporated many teams for the ninth grade playing schedule.

As in previous years, ninth graders have made their Varsity dreams come true by playing on Friday nights. However, Zito is saving ninth graders to move up to the Junior Varsity level before Varsity.

“Right now there are four or five ninth graders dressing on Friday night,” Zito said.

Zito also included that the players are not starters and are back up players for positions with depth issues.

“I think it encourages more ninth graders to play, if they are having to compete with tenth graders or maybe sometimes eleventh graders on JV, some of those kids decide not to play,” Zito said.

Along with a new team to the program, Zito wants to encourage all to play football if they have the desire to. He believes that the added team could bring light to the Ola football program and create benefits that could be long-lived.