High school football: Hollis paves way for Pulaski resurgence

Nov. 25—PULASKI — Bradley Hollis looked around while soaking in the Section 3 Independent Division II championship with the Pulaski High School football team and saw roughly 25 former teammates had joined in the celebration.

Hollis and coach Paul Monnat recognized the full-circle moment as the turning point the program had been building toward throughout his four-year career, and both were happy to see all who collectively contributed take pride in the achievement.

Hollis, a senior two-way lineman, was the only player left from the Blue Devils' past venture into Eight-Man football and has overcome various injuries to remain a steady contributor throughout the program resurgence, which will be complete with a return to Section 3 Class D next fall.

Pulaski beat Phoenix, 37-0, to claim the Independent Division II crown on Nov. 2, capturing the program's first league title of any kind since 1999. Hollis played a key role throughout the title campaign after returning from a season-ending injury last year.

"It was a great feeling, it took some time, but we got it all done, I got to come back and win it all with 10 great seniors," Hollis said. "I think going into the season we knew this was what was expected of us. Closing it out with a win was a nice way to end this chapter in my life."

Hollis was moved up to varsity as a freshman in 2019, the final season for Pulaski as members of the Section 3 Eight-Man Division. The Blue Devils previously converted to Eight-Man amid declining participation numbers in 2017 to keep the team active.

Pulaski returned to the traditional 11-man format the following season and have played in the Independent Division ever since.

Hollis led a group of veteran players, including nine other seniors, that relentlessly recruited around school and helped complete the program renaissance.

"It's awesome, we were 1-8 my freshman year with the one win being a forfeit, and seeing the program go from 22 people to 38 this year, that's amazing," Hollis said. "We just got better every single year I was here, so it's been awesome to see."

Pulaski went 3-1 in the Fall II campaign held in spring 2021 and finished 6-2 overall last year, reaching the Independent Division final before falling to Mexico.

The Blue Devils went three years without an on-field victory prior to the recent turnaround. They were credited with a forfeit win in 2019 after two winless campaigns as they struggled to maintain a roster.

"I think commitment from this group of seniors through sophomores was huge, and I like to give credit to the teams that have passed through, because there were a few years where we could have easily folded up and not had a program again, but we had groups, even with the eight-man teams that kept us afloat," Monnat said.

Hollis was happy to return for the championship reward after missing most of last season with an injury to his meniscus.

Hollis was limited to two appearances as a junior before suffering the injury and spent much of the past year working through physical rehabilitation. Hollis returned in time for basketball season last year and was back to form in time to win a Section 3 shot put title in track and field last spring.

He remained a fixture in the football locker room last year and fulfilled his obligations as a team leader despite being ruled out for the remainder last season.

"Working hard through the offseason, that was my one goal was to come back and make it through my football season because I knew we were going to come back and be able to win this championship," Hollis said.

Hollis was rewarded for his hard work and longstanding commitment to the program with a touchdown in his final game.

The career contributor to both lines scored on a three-yard run in the third quarter for his first career score to help close the championship victory.

"The word I use for Brad is resiliency," Monnat said. "He's dealt with injuries every year of his career but always finds a way to make it back and make an impact even when he's not playing. He's the leader of the line, the captain of that group, and I think he's been that steady force of what we've been doing these last four years."