4 Questions with Ola head coach Jared Zito

Today’s interviewee is Ola coach Jared Zito, whose team is 3-0 and ranked in an AJC poll for the first time in history. Ola defeated Spalding 49-7 last week.

Jared Zito, Ola head coach

1. For Ola, a program that hasn’t been ranked, is it good to get that recognition this early in a year, or better to fly under the radar a little longer? “It is an honor to be included in that list of teams. I think it is great for our program, school and community. The message to our team is to continue to improve each day in practice and each Friday night. We know we have a very good region with talented, well-coached teams, and if we want to reach our goals we will have to play well starting in two weeks as region play begins.”

2. What would you want people to know about this year’s team? What do you do well, and what are the concerns? “This year’s team has a lot of confidence. We have a lot of guys back that either started or played on our team that made the playoffs last year, and I think that has helped. We have more depth in a lot of places, and more kids are a part of the plan each week. I think the main concern right now is making sure everyone is staying safe and healthy and learning how to be flexible and adapt to the new normal.”

3. A year ago, coming off a 1-9 finish, you made the playoffs and lost only four games, all to top-10 teams, all games decided by 13 points or less. How did the 2019 season affect or motivate this year’s team? “I think we are just a more confident team. Last year’s team was special in so many ways, and I think part of their legacy was to create a new standard and culture for others to follow. This year’s team has been challenged to take it to the next level. Our motto this year has been #Bethe11, which stands for the 11 points that separated us from being a No. 4 seed in the playoffs and [being a No. 2 seed and] hosting a home playoff game for the first time in school history. We have challenged them with asking who is going to be the 11? Who is going to be the difference between this year and last year?”

4. Region play begins in two weeks. How do you see that race playing out? “We have a very talented and well-coached region. I think the early favorites have to be the teams that have been there before - Dutchtown, Jones County, Stockbridge. We certainly want to be in the conversation of being a top team in our region. We just have to take it one game at a time. We played the top teams very close last year but were not able to beat them. I believe in our team, and if we continue to improve, play to our potential and avoid injuries I think we can be in that conversation.”

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