Warriors Still Got Spirit: Cheerleaders Navigate Fan-Free Pandemic Season

Dave Quick
Varsity cheerleader seniors Amara Suarez, Reese Tobin and Marisa Humphreys spin toward the field as they lead things out during a cheer routine at the North Atlanta versus Tucker game on Oct. 16.

For many North Atlanta students, one of the most iconic experiences of being a Warrior is attending a Friday night Dubs football game at Grady Stadium. The electric energy of North Atlanta’s rowdy student section goes unmatched and serves as a testament to the spirit and pride that all Warriors have in their school. 

But the student section was eerily quiet this year, as Atlanta Public Schools announced a no-spectator policy for all fall sports this season. Among those fortunate enough to gain entry onto the field were the North Atlanta cheerleaders, who cheered on and continued to show their unwavering support for the team and for all Dubs fans supporting from home.

Seniors Jala Stubbs and Marisa Humphreys are two of this season’s stellar squad of football cheerleaders, each taking on the role of captain for the 2020 season. Both four-year varsity veterans, the athletes say that handling all the curves this season’s thrown at them has been challenging. Precautions put in place severely limited practice time for the team, and with the absence of fans and the boisterous student section, both captains said they didn’t feel the same levels of excitement that accompany typical game days. But Stubbs and Humphreys were quick to note that there were also many bright spots for this unique season. The squad was able to face the field and watch the game, an interesting and enjoyable first for the seniors. Their Senior Night did not disappoint either, with the official event taking place at the Nov. 13 home game versus Morrow and the solo routines at the away game at Lovejoy on Nov. 19. Although normally done on Senior Night, the solos were allowed at Lovejoy because there was a limited spectator policy, which allowed a small number of Dubs fans and friends of the seniors to be present at the game. All in all, the athletes were proud of their senior season, and reflecting back on their four years as a Warrior cheerleader, there was a shared feeling of bittersweetness about saying goodbye to their teammates and coaches. “I think we did the best with what we had despite the circumstances,”  said Humphreys.

Stubbs offered a similar sentiment expressed by her co-captain colleague, and she directed praise toward cheer coach Jennifer Page and cheer coordinator Elizabeth Archer. “Senior Night wasn’t what we had imagined but Coach Page and Ms. Archer really did the most they could to make it special for us and I appreciate that so much,” said Stubbs. 

Although COVID has taken a considerable toll on the 2020 season, Coach Page believes that the changes have actually highlighted the true purpose of the cheer squad at North Atlanta. With the absence of fans at this year’s games, she said that it helped the squad to realize how critically important it was to support this year’s football team. She wants to build school spirit and pride at North Atlanta and has big plans to do so, starting with the contributions of the Dubs cheerleaders. “Win, lose, or draw, we are Warriors,” Page said. “At every game, experience, and pep rally, we should feel that sense of community because they [the football team] represent us and by representing us, they give us more pride in our school.”

Despite the rough road laid out in front of them this season, the Dubs cheerleaders have done much to further school pride and spirit at North Atlanta. Under the leadership of co-captains Jala Stubbs and Marisa Humphreys, the Warriors have stood strong and cheered on despite the challenging circumstances. The program is set to grow even more in the near future, as Coach Jennifer Page takes North Atlanta cheer to new heights. Thank you for a great season, cheerleaders, and go Dubs!