081419_MNS_Wesleyan_Micah_Smith Micah Smith

Wesleyan’s Micah Smith (1) returns a kickoff in a game in 2018.

The 2018 campaign proved to be a banner year for local North Fulton private programs as one placed itself among the elite in Georgia with a state championship while others continued to find consistency with postseason appearances.

Blessed Trinity secured its second consecutive state championship last season with a 23-9 win over Cartersville in the Class 3A on Dec. 12, 2018 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The victory secured a perfect 15-0 campaign for the Titans and extended the program’s winning streak to a record 21 contests.

This season the Titans will have to replace five graduated seniors in linebacker JD Bertrand, running back Steele Chambers, receiver Ryan Davis, quarterback Jake Smith and nose tackle JR Bivens who matriculated to Division 1 colleges.

“What we hope carries over is their tremendous work ethic and attention to details,” Blessed Trinity coach Tim McFarlin said. “If we can fill those gaps with consistent play, we should be OK.”

The Titans will return four starters in seniors Reagan Smith, Jack Filipowicz and Austin Burns as well as junior Ty Furnish. Junior Matthew comes back at fullback and linebacker while senior running back Elijah Green and junior Jackson Hamilton return to the backfield. Top passing targets will be senior tight end James Bryant and junior receiver Carson Harof. Defensively, senior lineman Grayson Gilder and senior cornerback Quinton Reese, who had 48 tackles in 2018, will be back as well. The Titans host St. Pius X on Aug. 23.

Wesleyan earned seven wins last season and reached the second round of the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class A Private state playoffs for the second consecutive year. The Wolves have made the playoffs seven straight years and are back in preparations to take the next step in the postseason.

“It was a great summer,” Wesleyan head coach Franklin Pridgen said. “We’re always trying to balance the need to get things done with encouraging our players to play other sports such as lacrosse, baseball and basketball so everyone wants a piece of the athlete. In spite of that our attendance was great and participated in three seven-on-seven competitions and had great results. I’m cautiously optimistic heading into the season.”

Last season, the Wolves handed the reins of the offense to freshman quarterback JC French, who proceeded to have 2,205 total yards and 18 touchdowns.

Senior Josh Morris, juniors Micah Smith, Wyatt Hodges and Andrew Van Wie as well as sophomore Cooper Blauser will be French’s main throwing targets at wide receiver. Junior Vance Nicolas will see significant action at tight end. Wesleyan will have a rotation of running backs this season including seniors Cardo Gottlich and Hunter Haran.

The Wolves return three senior linemen in Chris O’Sullivan, Josh Aspinwall and Collin Conduah who will play on both sides of the ball. Junior Tanner Bivins is also a standout lineman. “They have great potential and done good work in the weight room this offseason,” Pridgen said.

Senior defensive back Trent Bartlett had a school-record nine interceptions in addition to 72 tackles last season and returns to the team. Gottlich had a team-high 81 tackles in 2018 for the Wolves at linebacker. Wesleyan hosts Meadowbrook on Aug. 23.

Fellowship Christian was also in the Class A Private playoffs last season, winning 10 games and advancing to the quarterfinals of the postseason.

“The team has worked hard this off season in the weight room and in seven-on-seven competitions,” Paladins coach Al Morrell said. “The 2018 season went well, but the lesson learned once again is that we must stay healthy to compete in Class A football. Everyone on the squad must be prepared to fill in even if you’re a backup, so practicing well and staying focused is very important.”

Fellowship returns senior running back Murphy Reeves, who ran for a team-high 1710 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2018. Junior Jordan Brewer was the team’s top receiver with 626 yards and six touchdowns last season. Juniors Joey Archer and Eli Hildebrandt are competing for the starting quarterback position.

Defensively, the Paladins return junior linebackers Caleb McClung and Nathan Nardone, who had 99 tackles and 95 tackles respectively in 2018. Other top returners will be junior defensive back Lawson Haigler, senior DB Bryce Paul as well as junior linemen Charlie Patterson and Brady Niblock. Fellowship hosts North Springs on Aug. 23.

St. Francis won five contests in 2018 which was the most in a season since 2014. The Knight look to return senior quarterback Josh Gil, who had 1,600 total yards and 20 touchdowns, while senior Hunter Jones had a team-high 686 rushing yards. Senior Zay Wadsworth caught a team-high eight touchdowns on offense and posted 63 tackles with four interceptions on defense in 2018 is back. Jones also had 63 tackles last year.

“We started June 3 and basically got through the months of June and July and our main goal was to get out on the field for some conditioning and practice time, basically to get used to the heat,” St. Francis coach Frank Barden said. “Anytime we can work out as a team it serves as a building block for the team we will put on the field this fall.”

The Knights visit North Cobb Christian on Aug. 30.

King’s Ridge looks to bounce back from a one-win campaign in 2018. “We started summer workouts on May 29,” Tigers coach Jeff Pickren said. “We are looking to get stronger, faster and in better shape. Also, we are participating in seven-on-seven drills with other schools in hopes of our kids getting a better understanding of our offensive and defensive scheme.”

King’s Ridge hosts Riverside Military Academy on Aug. 30.

Mount Pisgah Christian won three contests in 2018 which snapped the program’s six-year postseason appearance streak. The Patriots visit Holy Innocents’ on Aug. 24.

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