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COCHRAN: North Hall rises to the challenge

POSTED: November 28, 2007 5:04 a.m.

Convinced yet?

If not, just wait. The Trojans are on their way to convincing the entire state that they are not to be trifled with.

By beating Sandy Creek 21-7 Friday night, North Hall proved that it could do something it hasn’t done all season: win a close game against an equal or greater opponent.

The Patriots were certainly the bigger team in The Brickyard. It could also be argued that they were the faster team. Their receiver Braxton Lane supposedly runs a 4.3 second 40-yard dash.

If these two teams played 10 consecutive Fridays, each team would probably win five games.

"They are about as good a team as anyone around," North Hall coach Bob Christmas said. "They are very solid up front."

Need more evidence? The Trojans and Patriots were deadlocked, 0-0, at halftime.

Friday night, however, the Trojans didn’t need a miracle play, an emotional speech or an excessive celebration to win.

What North Hall did to beat Sandy Creek by two scores is exactly what it is going to have to do to make it to the Georgia Dome and beyond.

They just played harder.

"We didn’t change our schemes that much," senior fullback Bobby Epps said of possible halftime adjustments. "We got our heads together."

Runs that were irrelevant, short gains in the first half were stretched into chain-moving plays in the second half. Passes that were broken up in the first half were intercepted in the second half.

Instead of just tackling the Patriots like they did in the first half, the Trojans added turnovers in the second half. Senior halfback/linebacker Hunter Wolf not only stopped the speedy Braxton on a fourth quarter play, he ripped the ball out of the kid’s soul and took it into the end zone.

North Hall did what it has done all season. It just did it better.

The Trojans kept wearing down Sandy Creek until it broke. When it broke, the floodgates opened and a river of green rushed through. That river may be slowly making its way to Atlanta.

"The kids showed a lot of resolve," Christmas said. "We went through the same process we always do at halftime. ... But mostly, we challenged our kids. We asked them to play 24 more minutes of football."

The 24 minutes the Trojans played in response may have been their best, and most beneficial, of the season.

It is rare that a team cruises in and out of the Georgia Dome and walks away with a state championship unscathed. It takes the resolve Christmas saw. It takes the guts to play bigger than a team that might be better.

"It is very good for us to be challenged like this," Christmas said. "This is exactly what we needed."

The Trojans not only proved to their fans and the rest of Class AAA that they can take apart a tough opponent Friday night, they proved it to themselves.

With Christmas’ gameplan — which is roughly drawn out on pieces of notebook paper that resemble a student’s book report — and the effort given Friday night, there shouldn’t be any team that intimidates these Trojans.

The picture was painted perfectly by three little North Hall fans after the game.

On the visitors’ stands at the Brickyard, a Sandy Creek fan hung a sign that read "Dream, Believe, Achieve."

After the game, those three mini-Trojans slowly tore down the sign, piece by piece, discreetly so their parents wouldn’t see.

By the time the teams cleared the field, all that was left of the sign was the "D" of "Dream."

Just like the game, North Hall slowly tore apart the Patriots, piece by piece.



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