The last time North Hall was in this situation they wound up in the state semifinals.
The Trojans return a strong, experienced class of players from last year’s 11-3 team. There will be 23 seniors on the North Hall team this fall, which makes heightens expectations. The same scenario – plenty of experienced juniors coming back – led to North Hall going 13-1 before losing to Cairo in the Georgia Dome.
The same situation could be brewing again in 2013.
“This may be the most experience team we’ve had since that 2007 team,” coach Bob Christmas said. “We went to the Final Four with that team. Last year we played a bunch of kids. We could easily line up and have kids at every position that lettered last year.”
North Hall is one of the few remaining teams in the state that runs the wishbone and ran for nearly 4,700 yards last season. The backfield is led by quarterback Andrew Smith, who split time at quarterback with Brad Brown. Smith ran for 605 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
The backfield lost halfbacks T.J. Tate (1,174 yards) and Kevin Christmas (1,065 yards) , but there are four who played a lot, including Zac Little (551 yards, seven TDs). Fullbacks Destin Bennett (160 yards) and David Epps (129 yards) are both returning.
“I’m excited about the stable of running backs we’ve got,” Christmas said. “We’ve got a lot of depth in the backfield and we’re big up front. I’d say that’s the strength of our team.”
The offensive line is big an athletic. Returning starters are Thomas Marchman (6-4, 260), Justin Bacus (6-2, 290), Russell Gillespie (6-3, 300) and Dylan Truelove (6-2, 260).
“It’s the biggest line we’ve had at North Hall,” Christmas said. “The kids aren’t just big, but they’re athletic, too.”
The defense is led by Will Cape and Smith, who as first-team all-state a year ago.
“We’re two-deep with the front three in our 30 scheme,” Christmas said. “We may be two-platoon, but we want to know we can put our best players out there when we need to.”
A year ago the North Hall offense got a lot of attention. That’s not difficult when you score 426 points during the regular season. It also obscured the success of the defense, which began to hit its stride about the middle of the season. In fact, only one team scored more than 10 points against the Trojans in the second half of the season.
“We changed from an even to an odd front and they learned as we were going,” Christmas said. “By the time the playoffs rolled around we we’re playing really well on defense.”
North Hall Trojans
2012 record: 11-3, 6-1 in Region 7-AAA, lost in semifinals to St. Pius
Starters returning: 7 offense, 9 defense
Key players lost: OL Avery Easton, HB T.J. Tate, HB Kevin Christmas
Key players returning: HB/DB Andrew Smith, OL Thomas Marchman, LB Zach Little,
Schedule: Aug. 30 Chestatee, Sept. 6 at Johnson, Sept. 13 at Jefferson, Sept. 27 Dawson County, Oct. 4 East Hall, Oct. 11 at Fannin County, Oct. 18 at White County, Oct. 25 West Hall, Nov. 1 at Banks County, Nov. 8 Buford
Outlook: The Trojans have plenty of important players coming back on both sides of the ball. This should be another strong playoff team. However, the elephant in the room is Buford. North Hall must find a way to beat the mighty Wolves if they want to hoist at trophy at the Georgia Dome.