Tobias Oliver didn't go to the Georgia Tech-Georgia game for one reason: location
No matter when the season ends, Friday night in the semifinals against Tucker or next week in the GHSA Class 6A title game, the senior class at Northside will have left a remarkable legacy.
It currently has a three-year record of 34-5, with a region championship and the 2014 Class 5A title. Two wins, and the record improves a little, but having two state titles would be quite the stamp.
And it would be due to a senior class that is a mix of standouts and blue-collar workers, of underrated stars and undersized stalwarts.
There are, of course, headliners, like quarterback Tobias Oliver, who got the starting nod only a few days before the first game of his sophomore season.
Oliver, linebacker Kam Burnett, defensive back Tae Daley, offensive lineman Caleb Kelly, running back De’Sean Dinkins, athlete Trayvon Willis and receiver Jaylan Sandifer played in every game of the championship season. Defensive back Isaiah Nelson and defensive linemen Taykwan Northern and Trashon Owens developed into key regulars late in the season.
“We all grew up together,” said Burnett, who was second on the team in tackles and fourth in tackles for loss as a sophomore. “I would say we were close. We played against each other in middle school.
“We were all just playing.”
Daley said coaches told him during his freshman season that he was likely to start as a sophomore. Daley took it in stride.
“Back in 10th grade, I was just playing, it didn’t mean much,” said Daley, who led the Eagles in tackles as a sophomore. “It meant something to me, not as much as it does now.”
Burnett admitted taking things for granted, as well, until the rare first-round loss in the playoffs last year.
“It shocked me,” he said. “After we lost in the first round, that was like, I really had to buckle down. You got to be serious.
“I didn’t want to lose no more in the first round.”
That certainly wasn’t a legitimate concern this year, Northside moving up to Class 6A and competing in one of the toughest two or three regions of any class in the state. The Eagles hammered former region opponent Grovetown 52-0 in the first round, and have followed with wins of 28 and 22 points, the latter win coming on the road.
Oliver has taken over the top spot on the program’s all-time passing yardage list, and he’s among the top rushers in Northside history. He committed to Georgia Tech earlier this week, but he is something of a poster child for Northside football.
Yes, if he could keep playing football at Northside, he would. No doubt his coaches wouldn’t mind that.
Fans will certainly hold the accomplishments of those familiar names dearly, no matter what happens Friday, and perhaps next week. But Kinsler clearly enjoys talking about the impact on the program of those veteran seniors unfamiliar to people outside of the locker room.
Hiram Johnson saw some time as a sophomore on that 2014 team, as did Jaylen Josey, among others Kinsler noted, like Marcus Carter and Khashi Glen, as having stuck with it, regardless of playing time. Kinsler says the Eagles wouldn’t still be playing without such workers.
But he’ll not soon forget the impression of Cory Brown and Adarious Spikes.
“Cory Brown, he’s about 5-11, and about 98 pounds,” Kinsler said with a chuckle. “He’s there every day, throws his body around. He is a great kid.
“He is just as important as any of them, and the kids love him.”
Brown doesn’t work up that much of a sweat on Friday night, but he makes up for it the rest of the week.
“If you ever come out to practice and watch him and how hard he works,” Kinsler said, “you would swear he was preparing to play 48 minutes.”
Kinsler said that Spikes was very much a question mark three years ago, somebody who could have settled into a role as a career backup.
“It was iffy,” Kinsler said. “He made up his mind that he wanted to contribute. We put him into the fire.”
Spikes has been of huge impact lately, playing tight end, guard and tackle the past few weeks to help patch up the offensive line. It has worked, because the Eagles continued to roll on offense.
“Just in the last five weeks, he’s played guard, tackle and tight end,” Kinsler said. “He’s done it all.”
With little fanfare, like Brown and Carter and Jones and several others among the 22 seniors who were on that 2014 team.
“Those are great kids that are program kids,” Kinsler said. “Those kinds of kids like that, they’re the backbone of what makes us what we are. You’ve got to have those kinds of kids just as much as you have to have the Tobias Olivers.”