Sports writer Brian Paglia
Here’s where the young students at Ola High School learn how to move forward without moving on.
It’s a test for everyone after the news of Mustangs sophomore Jason Holland, 15, passing away early Friday afternoon.
Holland’s death came after he was hospitalized Wednesday evening. He went to Piedmont Henry Hospital before being transported to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Around 1:30 p.m. Friday, students and faculty at Ola learned of his death.
Ola made its next move the right one — it postponed a football scrimmage against rival Henry County until next week. No sense in playing a game without Holland, who was an offensive lineman on the junior varsity team.
Ola’s next move is much more complicated.
There are answers to be found about how or why a 15-year-old could die. Henry County Police Maj. Jason Bolton said heart trouble is suspected. An autopsy Monday will reveal more information.
There are students to counsel, a community to support and a family to console. The school has counselors available to speak to faculty and students about the tragedy. If any are having difficulty processing Holland’s, they need to seek those counselors out.
But eventually, Ola must figure out the difference between moving on and moving forward.
Because you don’t move on.
Locust Grove still hasn’t — not since it lost offensive lineman Forest Jones to a heat-related death last summer. The Wildcats have done everything they can to honor Jones’ memory.
His jersey number is lifted by wings on a sign near the far endzone.
One player is picked each week to carry a jug — Jones was notorious for his water-filled jugs at practices — at school, during pre-game warm-ups and make sure it stays safe on the sideline during Friday nights.
On the anniversary of Jones’ death, the team, family and community released white and Wildcats-blue balloons into the air.
Locust Grove hasn’t moved on without Jones. To do so would be to forget him.
But Locust Grove had to move forward.
It just found a way to take Jones with it.
“We still play in Forest Jones’ honor,” Locust Grove coach Clint Satterfield said. “Something like this just continues to live on.”
Satterfield said Locust Grove as a community, school and team couldn’t have gotten through its tragedy without support from surrounding schools and athletic programs.
Ola was right there for the Wildcats. Satterfield said the school gave letters, made phone calls and showed the Jones family support.
When Locust Grove opened, it pulled the bulk of its students from Ola — creating an instant opportunity for a county rivalry.
But at the first moment of heart-break, the rivals came together.
“We’re humans and we look to each other for support,” Satterfield said. “On the field, football is a very competitive sport here in Henry and Clayton counties, but when something like this happens we become a brotherhood.”
That’s how Ola will get through this, too.
The Mustangs can’t forget Jason Holland. There are too many good people in charge at Ola to let that happen.
Expect there to be a jersey number emblazoned on the football field.
Expect a community to flood the funeral service to show the Holland family support for their loss.
Expect rituals and traditions to be created that won’t ever let Jason Holland fade from memory.
And expect other Henry County schools to give Ola and the Holland family whatever signs of support they can.
“It’s a tragedy,” Satterfield said. “Not a lot you can say or do to prepare people for this. It’s hard on everybody.
“But all you can do is help the community, family, friends, coaches, players and faculty of the school to stay together.”
Brian Paglia covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter? Follow him at @BrianPaglia.