Brotherhood Was Contagious: Warriors Wrap Up Noteworthy 2020 Campaign

Dave Quick
In celebration senior Tight End Ned Coleman and freshman Running Back Quintarion Kelley chest bump.

Befitting a year when anything could happen — and really did happen — the 2020 gridiron season for the North Atlanta Warrior football team certainly turned out to be an eventful one. From the early-season lows of COVID-KO’d games to a late-season push toward a possible playoff slot, this season’s Dubs fought heroically all season long.

For its last game of the season, the team traveled down to Hampton to finish up its eight-game regular season against the Lovejoy Wildcats on Nov. 19 with hopes of making the talent-filled 6A playoffs. The game was tightly contested through the first half as the Warriors only trailed 12-10 in a tight-defense battle. However, the game slipped away from the Dubs in the second half, as several Lovejoy touchdowns and an unsuccessful North Atlanta offense led to the Warriors falling to the Wildcats 39-10 to end the postseason hopes. Although the Dubs fell just short of a record second-consecutive appearance and ended the season with three wins and five losses, it does not take away from the impressive season the squad had in the midst of the pandemic. 

North Atlanta had to face adversity throughout the entire season, as shown through the team’s scheduled first contest. The Warriors were supposed to start their season off in Marietta to take on the Wildcats of Wheeler in front of a crowd on Friday, Sep. 4. However, a COVID case emerged within the team, putting the season in jeopardy and canceling the game. However, the Dubs responded through this adversity, as they put in work and maintained effective measures of preventing the spread of the virus, allowing them to then start their adjusted season with a 13-7 win over Maynard Jackson on Sep. 18. 

However, the highlight of the season for many was their second game against in-town arch-rival Grady High School, in which the Warriors walloped the Knights 35-0 on Sep. 26 at Grady Stadium. The game had a special meaning to seniors, who solidified the four-year sweep against a team North Atlanta has traditionally come short against. “The Grady game was definitely a team-defining win,” said senior defensive Tony Moore. “Coming in as freshmen we heard they beat us 52-0 the year before, so we ran with that and didn’t lose to them a single time in four years.”

While many highlighted the shutout of Grady and Morrow as season highlights, one player said the best part was stepping up and taking on leadership roles. Senior linebacker Armari Hodges closed out his notable career as a Warrior with many impressive wins and performances. “Being a senior is great because you see all these younger guys progress under you just like you did,” said Hodges. “I know the future of this program is secure because of the young guys we see coming behind us.” 

Being a first-year coach during a pandemic-impacted season is nothing anyone would necessarily ask for, but Warrior head coach Jamie Aull pushed his players, his fellow coaches, and himself headlong into the face of the challenges. Aull said he was gratified for the stellar and unwavering effort his players gave all season long, starting with hot daily practices in mid-June — gatherings that featured team-wide temperature checks and masks along with the usual challenges of bringing a football squad together. “I could not be prouder of this team and what they became because they believed in what we were teaching and they believed in themselves,” Aull said. 

Aull said he was particularly grateful for the leadership provided by the team’s seniors who never lost their spirit in the face of the adversities the season brought. The team’s new 6A-4 Region featured stacked competition — including four teams the Dubs played who were in the top 10, powerhouse programs like Tucker, Langston Hughes, and Westlake. “This team never stopped fighting and punching back and that held true no matter who we were playing,” Aull said. 

The head coach also noted that players had to experience a season with no fans or parents to cheer them on within an empty Grady Stadium. “But what was clear all season long is that they played for each other — because they are brothers — and they were just happy to play the game they love,” Aull said. 

    The Dubs were definitely disappointed they came up just shy of a possible postseason run, but it does not take away from what they accomplished in such a peculiar season. Despite being placed in a much harder and competitive region in the midst of all the conditions COVID brought, the squad still shut out two of their opponents played tightly-contested games with talented teams like Pebblebrook and Tucker in their first year under a new head coach. The Warriors will be looking to ride the momentum of impressive games and talented underclassmen into a successful second year in 2021 under Coach Aull. Long remembered, however, will be the sacrifices and triumphs of a dedicated and united team. Masks? Temperature checks? No fans? A global pandemic? for such a valiant team of Dubs, it was all in the game in 2020.