New face arrives as North’s new football head coach

As the football season draws near, a new face as head coach looks to have a positive first season debut


Dane Massey

Coach Atwell begins training his football team on his road to his debut season.

The football season is just around the corner as the Knights look to kick off the season at home against Round Lake on March 20. However, there is a change of scenery around the football program as a new head coach looks to take the reins and lead the Knights to hopefully be contenders not only in the NLCC, but in the state playoffs as well. After coming from Vernon Hills when he was the assistant head coach there, Corey Atwell joined the Knights football program in 2018 as an assistant coach. Although being closer to home is easy, the move, however, was not as easy.

“Well it’s tough really, to be honest with you, to leave a place you’ve been forever,” Atwell said. “You know, I’ve been at Vernon Hills since 2000. So, it was tough. It was a tough decision to leave, but it is probably the best decision I have made because I have had nothing but great things. The administration has been great to work with here, and the kids are great to work with, so it’s been an awesome move for me.”

Corey Atwell being at Vernon Hills was a part of 11 state playoff appearances from 2000-2017. Coming over to Grayslake North, Corey Atwell started as an assistant coach alongside then head coach Sam Baker. After Baker’s departure from Grayslake North, heading for Rolling Meadows, a lot of questions were asked as to who would take over as the next Knights football head coach. But a decision was made as Corey Atwell became the new varsity football head coach.

“It’s been a smooth transition because at Vernon Hills I was the assistant head coach so I did a lot of head coach duties,” Atwell said. “I’ve been a head coach at other sports before. I just kind of picked up where Coach Baker left off and then tried to add my flavor to things and get people kind of going in the right direction that I want them to go in. Not that he was off a lot, but a different philosophy on some things here and there, so I’m putting my spin on things. Football is football.”

However, with a new head coach and a lot of questions and wild expectations for the team this year, COVID-19 came into play shutting down the Knights football season in favor of moving the season to the springtime, delaying the debut of a new era in Knights football.

“It dramatically affected us because usually we have months and months to prepare,” said senior Noah Green. “Now we have only two weeks to prepare. Being a senior, it is pushing me and just about everyone to make it the best season.”

However, with the COVID pandemic swarming the state, as well as the nation, Corey Atwell tried to make the best of it by taking advantage of the fall and winter contact days and getting in as much playing time as the team could.

“I think we’re okay knowledgewise,” Atwell said. “The guys have picked up the new offense really well, and I feel like they’re ready. If we have played this weekend, I feel like we would’ve been fine. I have been ready to go because I feel real comfortable where the guys know what we’re trying to do. They understand everything we are doing, so we’ve been doing this. We know we had summer camp; we had fall contact days. We had winter contact days, so we’ve been doing a lot of football just not getting to play any games. That’s been the biggest thing for us, so I feel good about that. I feel like the guys know where I am concerned and it’s our conditioning level right now. That’s the biggest thing that I’m concerned about because we haven’t had it. But now we are doing it in season. But before we did a lot of learning, because to be honest, I didn’t think we would play a game this year. I’m shocked we’re playing, but at the same time, I’m excited that we are on the other end of that for our seniors and for everybody. The program to let us play six games is great because boy it didn’t look good for a long time, and to be able to get a chance to get out there and play, it’s unbelievable.”

Atwell is taking the reins as the new head coach, and only time will tell his story and legacy.

“He has a couple State titles under his belt which makes him stand out a lot and shows that his methods work,” Green said. “Also, he treats everyone fairly, and if you show you deserve to play, then you play. He doesn’t favor one person over another. The whole team just feels like one big family. No one is trying to undermine the other or anything. All of us have fun with each other and push each other to be the best we can.”