New Ola football coach Jared Zito has a 26-37 record in six years as a head coach at Dacula and North Forsyth. (Special Photo)
McDONOUGH — In eight years of football, Ola has yet to achieve a winning record, or a playoff appearance.
The Mustangs’ best finishes? A pair of 4-6 campaigns in the 2009-10 seasons.
So when athletic director Curt Miller began his search for a football coach, he specifically set out to find someone who knew how to turn a program into a consistent winner.
Miller said he believes he’s found that man in Jared Zito.
Zito was named the school’s third football coach Monday after screening through over 80 applicants and interviewing 10 candidates, and Miller said he couldn’t be more excited about what he believes the Mustangs have obtained.
“Coach Zito has proven himself everywhere he’s been,” Miller said. “Everyone we’ve talked to have told us if you hire him, you hit a home run. People at all the places where he’s coached, nobody can say anything bad about him. We’ve heard of the things he’s done with faculty, players. He’s just a great football coach from what everybody tell us. He has everything there.”
Zito’s first head coaching gig was at Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange, Fla. There, he guided the team from an 0-10 record during his first season to an 8-3 mark, and the school’s first ever quarterfinals appearance in the playoffs during his third season.
After leaving Florida, Zito had coaching stops at North Forsyth and Dacula. Zito saw North Forsyth improve from a 1-9 record in his first season to a highwater mark of 7-4 during his third year. His first Dacula team went 9-4 in 2011 before finishing 1-9 in 2012.
Zito spent the 2013 season as the offensive coordinator at Westlake High in College Park where he helped head coach Bryan Love take what was an 0-10 squad in 2012 to a 5-6 2013 record, including the school’s first playoff appearance since 2009.
Zito said he likes to think that turning around programs is his calling card as a coach.
“The big things I was looking for was an opportunity to have a great place to set down some roots in a great community with my wife Amanda and two young children,” Zito said. “I was also looking for a place where I’d have the opportunity to build a program. Those two things combined really drew my attention.”
Zito was just 26 years old when he assumed leadership of the Spruce Creek program. He played quarterback and wide receiver at Newberry College in Newberry, SC. He said he likes to build his offenses to specifically fit his team’s personnel. He also said he strives to keep defenses off balanced and guessing schematically.
“What we’ll do on offense, it may not be something you’ll see on Saturdays,” he said. “We’re going to take a real good, hard look at what Ola’s strengths and weaknesses are, and really try to develop a plan. We want to figure out how can we be successful at Ola. Typically, we’re going to be physical. I like to throw in some change of tempo. May be some option mixed in there somewhere.
“Typically we’ll try to do somethings that others aren’t doing to try and give us an edge, and then see how we can go from there.”
Zito said he’s excited to immerse himself into Ola culture, and dig in for the long haul produce something special at the McDonough school.
“My vision for this program is to build it into something where 20 years down the road, people will look back at the move Ola made in 2014, and talk about this program as one of the best programs around,” he said.