After starting 4-0 for the first time since 1996, North Atlanta’s undefeated status came to an end with a 50-21 loss to Pebblebrook Sept. 24.
Things get only more challenging for the Warriors as they enter Region 4AAAAAA play.
After its 4AAAAAA opener at Tucker Oct. 1 (results of the game were not available at press time), North Atlanta (4-1 as of Oct. 1) will face two state-ranked region foes as it goes on the road to play Langston Hughes – ranked seventh in Class AAAAAA — Oct. 8 and then will return to action after a bye week to host third-ranked Westlake at Grady Stadium Oct. 22.
North Atlanta came out of the gate strong in the 2021 season by winning its first four games – beating Wheeler 10-7 Aug. 20, Therrell 34-6 Aug. 27, Maynard Jackson 37-2 Sept. 3 and Dunwoody 42-16.
It was only the second 4-0 start for the Warriors since they began varsity football play in 1991 and the first since ’96.
Meanwhile, North Atlanta is 4-1 for only the fifth time in the program’s history (’96, ’08, ’10, ’19).
“It’s a big deal for our guys,” North Atlanta coach Jamie Aull said. “Obviously, with the tough region we play, we knew we had to take care of business in the non-region schedule and then turn around and try to sneak in the (state) playoffs once we get into region play.”
The Warriors got a taste of the tough competition to come in their loss to Pebblebrook — which improved its record to 5-0-1 with the win.
“It was good to see those kind of athletes (from Pebblebrook), so we can learn a little bit more about our team as we go into region play,” Aull said. “We’ve got some teams in (that region) that are loaded with Division I talent when you talk about the Langston Hughes and the Westlakes and even the Lovejoys. Those teams are absolutely loaded. There is no easy week. When you get into region play, there’s a tough game every week and we’re going to have to play our best every week.”
The Warriors were able to score 14 of their points off of Falcon turnovers, including Connor Hughes’ 22-yard interception return, while Jamie O’Kelley scored on an 82-yard kickoff return and Trey Lennon threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Randolph Smith.
Linebacker Hunter Davis, who leads the team in tackles, leads the way on defense along with Hughes.
Now, North Atlanta will have to face a couple of teams that have established themselves as perennial state powerhouses.
First up for North Atlanta will be Langston Hughes (4-1 as of Oct. 1), which advanced to the AAAAAA quarterfinals in 2020.
Then, the Warriors return home to Grady Stadium to take on Westlake (4-1), a AAAAAA state semifinalist last year.
“It’s a tall order playing either one of those schools,” Aull said. “They’ve got great athletes and they have tremendous coaches coaching those guys up. Every week in our region, especially against those two, you have to come to play every week or you will get embarrassed. You’re going to see a lot of guys who you are going to see play on TV on Saturday (in college). You really have to have a great plan and your kids have to believe in it and buy in it. You have to hope for the ball to bounce your way a couple of times and hope that you’re in it in the fourth quarter with a chance to go after a win.”