Championship loss doesn’t diminish Trey Holly’s unique prep career
NEW ORLEANS – Trey Holly didn’t win a state championship.
Not on Saturday, not in three trips to the state finals in the last three seasons, not in the five seasons that he played on the Union Parish varsity.
But it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Holly ran the football, caught the football, returned a punt, held for place-kicks and made tackles.
But mostly he ran the football – which he has done more productively than any other play in the history of high school football in Louisiana.
It wasn’t enough to win this state championship game as Holly and his No. 3 Union Parish Farmers team (12-2) simply ran into a better football team.
The No. 1 seed Many Tigers completed an undefeated season with a 35-13 victory in the Division III Non-Select championship game Saturday in the Caesars Superdome.
Holly’s statistics were modest by his historic standards – 115 rushing yards, 63 of which came on his only touchdown run – though his yards-per-carry average (10.5) was actually better than his average entering the game because he had just 11 carries. He had just two pass receptions for 23 yards and a punt return for 10 yards.
He chipped in three tackles and four punts for an average of 32.5 yards and one was downed inside the 20.
But it wasn’t enough.
“I don’t know how many opportunities you get to be in the state championship,” Union head coach Joe Spatafora said. “It’s very hard to get here three years in a row. It’s the best feeling in the world when you win it. It’s the worst feeling when you lose it.”
If Holly was experiencing the worst feeling in the world he did a good job of concealing it as he approached his final minutes in a Farmers uniform with the same businesslike approach that enabled him to out-produce all other Louisiana rushers.
As the Tigers offense ran the final few minutes off the clock, Spatafora removed Holly from the game and the two stood together on the sideline. When the game officially ended Holly took the spot at the head of his team’s handshake line.
Periodically, Many players and coaches would deviate from the perfunctory handshakes to embrace Holly and whisper a few words to him.
Holly accepted his individual award as Union’s Most Outstanding Player and joined a teammate in accepting the state runner-up trophy.
As the state champions accepted their awards, most of Holly’s teammates retreated to their sideline to await the OK to head to the locker room.
But Holly and a few teammates stood respectfully near the Tigers celebration and observed a ceremony that Holly won’t ever experience first hand.
When Spatafora was asked a few minutes later to try and put Holly’s unique career into perspective, he said it wasn’t about “the yards or the touchdowns.” And it certainly wasn’t about the absence of a state title.
“It’s just about how good a person he is,” Spatafora said. “It’s about a young man and his drive and desire to succeed and to see the people around him succeed.
“I’m going to miss just being around him and talking to him, seeing his work ethic and talking to him about what he plans to do with his future. And that’s going to be something special.”
Holly is headed to LSU having gained 10,524 rushing yards and 146 rushing touchdowns among his 160 total touchdowns.
On Saturday, he had his 13th 100-yard rushing game this season, though he fell well short of his average of 198.5 rushing yards per game.
Holly won’t get another chance to compete for a state championship and it’s unlikely that Spatafora or Union Parish will get another chance to compete for a title with a player like Holly.
Holly, though, said his departure doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the program’s string of championship opportunities.
“It took a lot to get here,” the soft-spoken Holly said. “Next year they’re going to be even better because they’re going to have a chip on their shoulder.”
Perhaps they will be better next season, but they’ll have to accomplish that without him rushing for 2,000 yards, which he has done of each of the last three seasons.
Holly broke former University High star and LSU running back Nick Brossette’s state record of 8,704 yards back in September and ultimately surpassed Brossette’s mark by the equivalent of a really good full season for most prep running backs.
Brossette had to wait his turn at LSU behind a bevy of talented running backs before having a breakout 1,000-yard season as a senior.
Recently Lee Brecheen, owner and publisher of Louisiana Football Magazine, was asked to evaluate the prospects for college success for Holly, who’s 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds.
Brecheen invoked the names of two members of Tigers royalty among running backs – Kevin Faulk and Dalton Hilliard.
Faulk is LSU’s all-time leading rusher and Hilliard is No. 2.
Holly should fit right in.
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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…