Why new Comeaux football coach Eric Holden went after the Spartans job

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Eric Holden has a recent history of taking over struggling high school football programs and leaving them better than they were found.

But that is not why the former St. John, Berwick, Christian Life and Starkey coach hired last month at Comeaux is tackling his latest project.

Rather, it was a calling.

“I’ll be honest, man: I go where God sends me,” Holden said. “The doors that the Lord tells me to step through I step through.”

The latest opportunity swung open after Doug Dotson, now defensive coordinator at Walker, resigned after six seasons.

Enter Holden, who spent the past three seasons at St. John of Plaquemine.

He inherited a 26-member team there that had lost 27 straight games. The Class 1A Eagles went 2-4 during the COVID-19 hampered 2020 season.

“I thought we fought admirably at times,” Holden said, “but it was a situation when you are 0-10, or 0-20, or 0-27 – I mean, you’ve got some cultural issues. … When I came in we quickly began to address the dysfunction that was in the building.

“I will say this: That team should go 7-3 this year. I think we were on the cusp.”

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Holden believes the Eagles could have finished 4-4 if their final two games hadn’t been canceled due to COVID-19 issues.

“But I really do believe they’re in a great place,” he said.

“Leaving St. John, those kids are much more accountable. … They’re primed to have a great season.”

Berwick thrived

Holden left Berwick, located in St. Mary Parish 60-plus miles south of his Baton Rouge home, after two years.

“Berwick hadn’t had a winning season in 20 years when I took them over,” he said.

“I can remember people telling me not to take that job – that I was committing career suicide. And I just didn’t believe that. So we went in and did some great things there.”

Berwick made the LHSAA playoffs in both of Holden’s two seasons and won a postseason game in 2017.

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Eric Holden is Comeaux High's new head football coach.

“He’s been at some good programs … and he’s also been able to take over some programs that weren’t so good and make them pretty good,” Lafayette Parish School System athletic director Nic Jeffers said.

“He’s proven he can coach in a situation where there’s already talent and success, and he’s also proven … he can take over a program and right the ship.”

Success at Berwick, Holden suggested, was spurred partly by putting the program’s previous struggles in the past.

“I think at times communities forget just how much greatness resides in their kids,” Holden said. “Sometimes those kids have got to be reminded that God put greatness in them, and it’s up to them and that coaching staff to pull that greatness out.

“We had some kids that just embraced that and embraced an atmosphere of accountability, and they just excelled.”

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Promise at Comeaux

At Comeaux, which went 1-5 last season, Holden – also a former defensive coordinator at Port Allen, Southern Lab and Tara – feels the Spartans can do the same.

That’s why he jumped when the job was posted.

“A friend of mine reached out and said, ‘Hey, man, you’ll never guess what’s open right now.’ I’m like, ‘What’s that?’ ” said Holden, who also coached defensive backs at Evangel Christian in 2011. “He said, ‘Comeaux’s open.’ I was like, ‘Seriously?’ He was like, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘I’m on it,’ and I hung up the phone and went and applied.”

Influenced by the instructional philosophies of former Kentucky, Troy, Auburn, Louisiana Tech, Cal and Middle Tennessee State offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, Holden plans to start building a spread offense run from multiple sets during spring camp at Comeaux.

“We’re gonna throw the ball,” he said, “and I think the folks that are around here that know me, they’d probably saying ‘throwing the ball’ is an understatement.

“So we’ll be wide open. We’ll run the ball as well. But when I was at Berwick we threw for 3,000 yards; we ran for 1,000 yards in one of those seasons as well. So if we can run the ball we’ll run it. But I do enjoy throwing that pigskin around the yard, brother.”