A four-year starter for Edmund Burke Academy, Atkinson played at safety, cornerback, running back, quarterback, wide receiver, tight end and also returned punts and kicks.
“I want to get into every play I could,” Atkinson said.
This season, Atkinson helped push the Spartans to the GISA Class AA state championship game for the second year in a row to be named The Augusta Chronicle’s independent schools player of the year.
Dawson’s contributions start with his 101 total tackles but also include his 298 rushing yards, 220 receiving yards and 411 kick return yards.
The team’s go-to guy when Edmund Burke needed a big play on offense or defense, Atkinson got his start at safety as a freshman.
With two speedy senior cornerbacks working with a “wide-eyed” freshman, Atkinson was a little scared. He took his lumps early, just like the Spartans.
Edmund Burke went 5-5-1 in 2007, improving to nine-win campaigns the next two years before leaping to 11-2 this fall.
Preferring defense to offense because he can deliver big hits, Atkinson describes his playing style as “all heart, wide-open passion.” Because Atkinson plays with this high motor and hustle, Edmund Burke coach Buddy Sorrow said, Atkinson could make up for any initial mistakes on a play.
Atkinson’s persistence and guts shined through even when the do-it-all player was injured.
In the team’s close loss to Piedmont in the title game this season, Atkinson battled through a knee injury he suffered in the first half on a punt return.
He didn’t sit out the rest of the game, and while Atkinson’s passion didn’t lead to a championship, Sorrow hopes that level of determination made an impression on younger players.
Next season, Sorrow and the Spartans hit the field without four-year starters Atkinson, Logan Christian, Clint Saxon and Brandon Sharpe.
“Sure hate to lose a kid like him,” Sorrow said. “But you hope he’s laid the groundwork for somebody to follow in his footsteps.”