Six years after leaving Coral Shores High School, head coach Ed Holly returns to lead the football program. DOUG FINGER/Keys Weekly

The sun is setting, but the temperature on the gridiron is still downright sweltering. Off-season conditioning – focusing on running, throwing and weightlifting – is in full gear for Coral Shores High School football players.

But this season brings a significant change to the team roster, and it’s at the very top.

“It sure is nice to be back on the Canes’ sideline,” said Ed Holly, newly named Hurricanes head coach.

If the name sounds familiar, it should. Holly coached the Canes from 2011-2015 and left for an opportunity to coach college football at East Mississippi Community College. A year later, Holly accepted the top coaching position at Palmetto Bay’s Westminster Christian School, where he remained for five years.

But his heart and his home were in the Keys.

“We’ve always been a part of the community, but now I get a chance to lead the football program,” said Holly.

“He’s beyond respected, he’s revered,” said Rich Russell, Coral Shores athletic director.

For Russell, bringing Holly back to Coral Shores required nothing short of a Hail Mary.

“We tried multiple times to get him back down here and finally something broke, a position at the school, and it was ideal for him,” said Russell. “He took a reduction in salary and so forth to come here but he lives in the Keys and wants his kids to attend Coral Shores and graduate from Coral Shores.”

Besides being the head football coach, Holly will take on a teaching and a quasi-administrative role at school. After 33 years as athletic director and a total of 44 years at the school, Russell says he plans to retire after this school year.

“This is my last year. My hope and my vision moving forward would be that he will become the athletic director starting next year,” said Russell. “That’s just my own personal vision. I don’t make those calls, obviously.”

Coach Holly and his wife, Holly Holly (yes, that is her real name) have four children. Their daughter graduated from Coral Shores in 2021 and was Ms. Coral Shores. Their youngest son is a seventh grader at Plantation Key School. Their two middle sons attended Westminster when Holly was head coach. They commuted from Key Largo to Palmetto Bay every day.

“The drive was challenging. But I was never late. I never broke down, and I was always on time for five and a half years,” said Holly with a smile.

Both of his older sons will attend Coral Shores this year and will play on the team. One is a sophomore and the other is a senior.

When Holly left Coral Shores six years ago, offensive coordinator Alphonso Bryant, along with defensive coordinator Herbert James, assumed the head coaching position.

Russell says both will now be assistant coaches and are thrilled to have Holly back at the helm.

“Alphonso jokingly said, ‘I’ve just been holding this position until we could all get together again,’” said Russell.

Holly says his coaching staff is not complete. He still plans to bring in more coaches, including former defensive coordinator Jack Neidbalski.

“He’s got to clear it with his bosses but we’re hoping to bring Jack back so we will have not one, but two defensive coordinators,” said Holly.

The CSHS booster club is looking forward to a great season with Holly. The boosters raise money to support the team to help purchase essentials like new helmets and uniforms.

“He calls us the mom mafia. The moms get it done. If you need something done, you’ve got to have the moms involved,” said Christi Allen Franchini, booster club president.

“He’s all about family and he’s all about the team’s energy and when we are working together as a unified unit, you’re just that much more capable,” she added.

The Canes’ new head coach describes the booster club as “phenomenal”.

Holly’s optimism is contagious. With the first toss of the coin only weeks away, excitement for a new season under the old-slash-new head coach is building.

The countdown clock is ticking for the Hurricanes; the first game of the season against Coral Park kicks off at home on Aug. 19.

“We’ve got a great staff; our future is bright. I can’t wait to get into our schedule. We play really, really good teams this year,” said Holly.

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Kellie Butler Farrell is a journalist who calls Islamorada home. Kellie spent two decades in television news and also taught journalism at Barry University in Miami and Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, UAE. She loves being outside, whether spending time on the water or zipping down the Old Highway on her electric bike, Kellie is always soaking up the island lifestyle. Kellie and her husband own an electric bike rental company, Keys Ebikes.