All North Forsyth’s new head soccer coach Brandon Stewart knew was Heritage High School soccer in Conyers.
After being a ball boy for the team growing up, he earned player of the year honors playing for the Patriots. Once he finished his collegiate soccer career at Berry College, he went back to Heritage to lead the soccer program and brought the team to the state playoffs 11 out of 12 possible times.
However, Stewart decided to leave it behind for a better education for his children in Forsyth County when he accepted the Raiders’ head coach vacancy in May. His children are in seventh grade, sixth grade and kindergarten and his wife is an educator with aspirations of moving into an administrative role.
“The move was just trying to give them a better opportunity for long term stability in their school,” Stewart said.
The Raiders went 1-6 last season before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the season. In fact, the Raiders went 14-102 since 2013 and had not won a region match in nine seasons until the Raiders beat West Forsyth 3-0 Feb. 26.
Stewart said the team’s 6-2 start is the best start since the school started keeping record of the soccer program.
“I think that we bring just a different level of organization and passion than I guess what they’ve had before,” Stewart said. “Also some consistency. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a consistent voice for us. I think my career helps show some credibility.”
Stewart credits Georgia State commit Brian Silva, Will Mashburn and John Adams as three guys who have really taken a vocal leadership role on and off the field for the Raiders this season.
“Those three guys are really buying in and try to help flip the culture of expecting to compete everyday,” Stewart said.
Forsyth County had a number of players return to high school soccer after the shuttering of the United States Development team.
Stewart also accepted a job coaching a club team in the area with UFA and hopes that will bring awareness to athletes in the area that the brand of soccer the Raiders bring will be “competitive and fun.”
“We believe in community and plugging in where we’re at,” Stewart said. “I got lucky on the soccer side inheriting some guys who maybe needed a different voice. I came here to retire. I’m not a hopper. North gave us a great opportunity to check all the boxes.”
The Raiders' true test will come at the beginning of region play this year. Their only losses of the season came against Forsyth Central and back-to-back Class 7A state champions Lambert.
Lambert has spent time at the top of the Class 7A coaches' poll, while Central is No. 5 in the state.
“We shot ourselves in the foot playing Lambert,” Stewart said. “We’re gonna have a good opportunity in the next few weeks to round out how this is gonna look. I think we’re gonna be a tough matchup for anybody. The guys have worked their tail off and hopefully, they see we’re gonna put them.”
North will travel to Wesleyan School on Tuesday, then has another region test 7 p.m. Thursday against No. 1 South Forsyth.