Entering the 2020 season, the bar was set high for new North Atlanta head coach Jamie Aull.
The previous fall, the Warriors went 7-4 and advanced to the state playoffs for the first time since 1996, falling to South Paulding in the first round. In the offseason, head coach Sean O’Sullivan departed for the same job at Centennial in Roswell, and Aull, who spent the previous two seasons as North Atlanta’s offensive coordinator, was promoted to head coach.
In 2020 Aull guided the Warriors to a 3-5 record, and the team was one win shy of returning to the playoffs. But this year, with seven starters back on offense and only three on defense, North Atlanta may be in rebuilding mode as it aims for the postseason once again.
“We are a young and up-and-coming group,” Aull said. “Obviously last year we had a lot of senior leadership on the defensive side of the ball that graduated, so we’ve got to replace a lot of those guys with young and talented players. Offensively, especially up front, we have a lot coming back. … A couple of kids at key positions have the chance to be starters on the offensive side of the ball with hard work.”
The Warriors will especially miss five starters who graduated: SR/DB Syre Stewart (Colorado signee), TE/OLB Ned Coleman, OLB Amari Hodges, S Che Osborne and RB Tre’ Mason.
This year the team is led by two seniors – OL/DL Elliott Moody and S Kanye Riggins – and three juniors – C Tyree Myles, WR Deshawn Merritt and LB Hunter Davis – who started last fall. Junior QB Trey Lennon and sophomore WR Jesean Wilson are expected to contribute as newcomers to the varsity squad.
Aull said North Atlanta’s bitter taste of just missing the postseason in 2020 will motivate it this year.
“That’s one of our goals, to qualify for the state playoffs,” he said. “I think this team has the ability to do that. But basically things have to work in your favor. You have to have some luck along the way, and there’s got to be a lot of hard work put in between now and the start of the season and during the season as well.”
“We were very close last year, and this team has had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder in the offseason because our group expects to win at this point and be known as one of the better teams in the area. They’ve worked very hard to be able to prove themselves on the field.”