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Livezey at home in Norcross

Friday night will feel a little like home for Holy Innocents' head football coach Ryan Livezey when his team plays at Wesleyan.

He didn't go to Wesleyan, but he lives in Peachtree Corners and his alma mater, Norcross, will be right across the road. Although this is isn't the same Norcross because the school was in its old location at Beaver Ruin Road and Buford Highway when he went there.

"(The facilities) are a little bit nicer now," Livezey said of Norcross, where he graduated in 1989.

Livezey has come a long way, too, since the last time he was involved in a meaningful football game in Norcross.

All he's done in recent years is quickly build Holy Innocents' into a respectable football team, one that is still alive in the chase for Region 6-AA's final playoff spot along with Walker and Wesleyan. This is the Golden Bears' fourth year of football and first against a varsity schedule, but they've held their own with a 4-4 record.

Much of the credit for that goes to Livezey, a former lineman at Norcross who played college football at Furman. He's known as a hard worker, but he also brought in the right people - former Norcross assistant Ron Green is his offensive coordinator and former Lovett head coach Bill Railey is his quarterbacks coach - to get the job done.

For years Holy Innocents' was known as a basketball school, but they're starting to play football pretty well, too.

"I don't know if I'd say I'm surprised (at how we've done this season)," Livezey said. "When we talked about building this program, we aimed for being competitive our first varsity season. We didn't want to just say we have a football team. We didn't want to be the sacrificial lamb for everybody else.

"So this is kind of the way we had hoped it would go."

Livezey, who coached for one season at Winder-Barrow and then six at Marist prior to taking over at Holy Innocents', has done his homework. He consulted guys like Wesleyan's Will Jackson, Greater Atlanta Christian's Jimmy Chupp, Marist's Alan Chadwick and Blessed Trinity's Ricky Turner and smartly took their advice and has applied it at the Sandy Springs program.

Holy Innocents' went 7-0 in 2003 in its first middle school season, then was 3-3 as a JV team in 2004. Last year's varsity team was 7-0 against a JV schedule.

The challenge this year was much bigger, but Livezey and his program have made a solid transition.

"I'm lucky," Livezey said. "We have terrific kids who are willing to work hard. They're willing to do everything they can to get better."

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.