Following the resignation of head coach Jeremy Gainer after the 2017 campaign, the North Atlanta football team found its new leader within the same region.
The Warriors have brought in Sean O’Sullivan to lead the program after he served at Pope High School’s defensive coordinator last season. O’Sullivan, who joined North Atlanta in April, has been active with his squad throughout June and July.
“The summer workouts are going well,” he said. “Everything moves fast. We’ve had workouts four days a week. The turnout has been good, the kids are working hard and have bought in. We’re excited to get the regular season going.”
O’Sullivan isn’t a stranger to the area with previous stints as the defensive coordinator at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School and as the linebackers coach at Westminster, including its state championship campaign in 2015.
“I played against North Atlanta last season and when the job opened, I knew the team had a lot of athletes,” O’Sullivan said. “I could tell that the program was heading in the right direction and that intrigued me. I still stay in touch with coach Gerry Romberg at Westminster on a weekly basis. We’re an Atlanta public school but in a great area with a lot of kids that can come here.”
O’Sullivan plans to work with the local middle schools near North Atlanta.
“We want to build a culture here and that includes the middle schools,” he said. “Working at Pope helps with the aspects of a public school but where ever you go, the kids are the same.”
O’Sullivan, a graduate of Mars Hill College in 2009, has collegiate coaching experience at his alma mater as well as Delta State University and Southeastern Louisiana University, finding it an advantage when working with the players at the high school level.
“I’m able help the kids with recruiting and how the system works,” he said. “It helps having close friends still at the collegiate level in places such as Alabama, University of Louisiana, The Citadel and Reinhardt. It’s about the kids and helping them get to the next level while having fun.”
Even in the summer, the Warriors’ coaching staff has worked on installing a new system for 2018.
“We’ve been able to get on the board and install our new offensive and defensive system this summer,” O’Sullivan said. “The more you can walk the players through it, installation becomes easier. The good thing was that I was able to do spring football with the kids which was their introduction to me.”
On the field, the Warriors finished last season with three wins. North Atlanta seeks its first playoff berth since 1996.
Offensively, North Atlanta looks to improve on a unit that averaged 11.5 points per contest last season. The Warriors return junior starting quarterback Wiley Hartley and senior wide receiver Justin Sanders. The team will replace all five starting offensive linemen from last year.
“We’re going to establish the run and build that mentality because without the run game, you’re not going to be very successful,” O’Sullivan said. “Wiley has caught on fast to what we’re trying to do on offense, been to every workout and been a great leader. We’re focused on getting the best players possible on the line even if that means some of them go on both sides of the ball.”
North Atlanta’s defense allowed 23 points a contest last season, which was its lowest average since 2011. Top returners include two seniors in linebacker Andrew Robinson, who had 63 tackles and two sacks last season, and defensive back Justice Sanders, who posted 41 tackles in 2017. Both players have received college scholarship offers this summer.
“I’ll run the defense and the philosophy will be to stop the run and make the opponent beat us with the pass,” O’Sullivan said. “We’ll be aggressive on defense. We’re also working on special teams because everywhere I’ve won, it’s a huge factor. It’s one-third of the game that gets overlooked but (can) get you an extra three or four wins a year.”
The Warriors will begin its helmet acclimation period July 25, with the academic year starting Aug. 1. North Atlanta opens its 2018 campaign at home against Grady Aug. 17.