North Atlanta had a breakthrough season in 2018 with a five-win campaign that saw the program produce its most victories in a year since 2010.
The Warriors are ready to build on this success and earn a spot in the Georgia High School Association state playoffs for the first time since 1996.
“There are kids back from last season’s team that played a bunch,” third-year North Atlanta coach Sean O’Sullivan said. “They have been working hard this summer. The key for us is staying healthy. This is our third year together, so the transition has been smoother. The players know what I expect, and this offseason has been tremendous starting with winter workouts in January.”
The improvements on the field have provided ample motivation for this year’s squad.
“The biggest thing is that the kids started to believe last year when we started to win,” O’Sullivan said. “We had a close loss to Alpharetta last year and lost fourth-quarter leads, so that has made everyone even hungrier, especially our seniors in their last go-around.”
One of those seniors will be returning starting quarterback Wiley Hartley, who amassed 2,070 total yards and 23 touchdowns last season.
“Wiley knows our system along with our other returners, so that helps us hit the ground running faster,” O’Sullivan said. “Wiley is in his second year with the offense and is a dual threat, which helps us tremendously.”
The Warriors’ offense averaged 29.7 points per contest last season, which was a team record. Senior running back T.K. Mack had eight rushing touchdowns in 2018 for North Atlanta and should see increased production this year. Seniors Trey Harris and Josh Brown will be main targets for Hartley at wide receiver, while seniors Wesley Horton, Davis Bell and Dylan Cook return as linemen who will see action on both sides of the ball. Junior Ned Coleman will be a starter at tight end and linebacker for the Warriors.
“The team is looking great, getting stronger,” Hartley said. “Coach O’Sullivan has set a culture of winning that we hadn’t had before. Getting those wins last year carries momentum into what we can achieve this year. This isn’t the North Atlanta that was a losing program and didn’t want to work hard anymore. We need to win games and the expectations are the playoffs.”
Defensively, senior Ojochilemi Okoka will start at nose guard alongside seniors Sterling Fleury and Ian Santiago at middle linebacker and cornerback, respectively.
“We’ll have some young kids such as junior Syre Stewart at corner who earned the job in the spring,” O’Sullivan said. Rounding out the defensive backfield will be seniors James Hare and Tyree Hyde.
North Atlanta has a large amount of players that will play both offense and defense, which is unique for a Class 6A program.
“Our conditioning is different since the guys have to be in a different type of shape, but we’re big as a coaching staff on having the best players on the field at all times,” O’Sullivan said. “We will have some depth this year, which will be good.”
The Warriors have built to this season ready to get into the playoffs.
“We have veterans like Wiley, Davis and Sterling, who have been starting since freshman year and played a lot of football games,” O’Sullivan said. “They’re a tight-knit group that’s talented and worked hard. We’ll try to win all three phases of the game each week.”