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North Hall battling despite season full of injuries

Trojans face Monroe Area on Friday for spot in playoffs

POSTED: November 2, 2011 10:06 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA | The Times/

North Hall's Imani Cross carries the ball against Chestatee on Sept. 30 at The Brickyard.

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Lady Luck was against North Hall even before the season began.

Entering the 2011 season with what coach Bob Christmas considered to be a very strong roster, the Trojans (4-5, 3-2 8-AAA North) suffered an outbreak of injuries before kickoff in their opening game, an outbreak that has continued throughout the season.

And despite it all, the Trojans will still suit up for their game at Monroe Area on Friday with a berth in the state playoffs on the line.

The injury problems began early for North Hall.

Jesse Strickland, a senior starter at cornerback and split end who also returned kicks and punts, was lost for the year when he came down wrong on his leg in a Fellowship of Christian Athletes passing league game.

Not long after that, Cody Fowler and Eric Carroll, starters at linebacker and defensive tackle, respectively, went down in the team's first scrimmage.

Fowler missed five weeks with a concussion; Carroll was lost for the season.

Warming up before the first game, starting linebacker and tight end Taylor Ryder severely dislocated his finger and was sent to the hospital; Marcus Hulsey was hurt in the first half of the same game and was lost for the year.

"We had five guys out and it wasn't even halftime yet," Christmas said. "I was just wondering what else could go wrong."

Since then, Christmas said, the Trojans have averaged being three starters down per game, and had 16 diagnosed with concussions throughout the season.

And while star running back Imani Cross has shown no signs on the field of feeling after effects from last year's Achilles' tendon injury, Christmas said that he's "probably not" 100 percent.

"It's just difficult to get in a rhythm," Christmas said. "Everybody gets injuries. You've got to live with it, you've got to overcome it. You can't blame everything on injuries.

"Someone else has to step up, and we've had some guys do that. The main thing, though, is just lacking continuity week to week."

Yet, despite the injuries and losing its first three games of the season, Christmas' Trojans still expect to seize their chance against Monroe Area (7-2, 3-1 8-AAA South) at the Purple Pit on Friday.

"We're expecting to win this game," Christmas said. "(Monroe Area) is a very, very good team, but our kids are very positive about this and working hard. We're going over there to win it and to make a run in the playoffs. We still feel like we can do that."

Defensive back Andrew Smith, who missed last week's game with a concussion but is expected to play on Friday, said he thinks the team still has a chance at, not only making the playoffs, but finding success when it gets there.

"It's a year of adversity, and I think we've been tested," he said. "But if we can get healthy, I think we can make a run at it."

Smith, along with safety Wade Phillips, have helped make up for the lost production due to injuries on the defensive side of the ball.

The two have both intercepted three passes, tied for the most in the area.

To win, the Trojans will need similar production from those in the secondary, but also have to do something they have struggled at for much of the season.

"We've got to tackle well," Christmas said.

Throughout the year, North Hall has struggled against athletic offenses, particularly mobile quarterbacks.

They will get one on Friday in quarterback Floyd McCoy, who has led the Purple Hurricane offense to 24 points per game.

It has been a consistent offense, scoring no less than 21 points in a single game all year.

"Really good athletes and athletic quarterbacks have hurt us this year," Christmas said. "It's been an issue this year. But we've just got to tackle well."

Running back Zac Little, who suffered a concussion
against Lumpkin County on Oct. 14, put it simpler.

"We've got to play wild and play crazy," Little said.

If they do, the team can accomplish something few would have considered possible early in the season: Make the state playoffs. Christmas said he was proud he could count his players among those that never quite believing.

"I feel like some of these other things have been a distraction at times, but I'm just so proud of how positive these kids have been," Christmas said. "We've just got to put it all together on Friday night and get a big win. If we do, I still feel like we can make a little run.

"We still believe."

 



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