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Offensive line powering potent North Hall attack

Trojans open state playoffs against Woodward on Friday

POSTED: November 14, 2012 10:56 p.m.

The North Hall Trojans don’t try to trick opponents.

Their old-school offensive system, the wishbone, is not complicated.

They win by achieving the goal that the offensive line laid down before the season began.

“As a whole, the offensive line’s goal was to be dominant this year,” senior center Avery Easton said. “We know we open up the holes for the running backs, so they can do their thing.”

With an 8-2 record, the first Region 7-AAA title since 2007, and an offense that averages an area-best 354.7 rushing yards per game, clearly the line has met their goal more often than not this season.

It’s just as North Hall coach Bob Christmas had hoped.

“We’ve got a very good offensive line,” he said. “We built around our offensive line, and we want to be a running team.”

Last week at Buford however, the line, and the rest of the team, found out at what level they will need to play at to continue winning deep in the playoffs.

Now, with a few days between them and the 45-16 loss, the Trojans are looking at that loss as a learning tool heading into the first round of the Class AAA playoffs against Woodward Academy at 7:30 p.m. Friday at The Brickyard.

“Obviously Buford’s a good team; we learned a lot and we’ll see how well we bounce back Friday,” senior quarterback Bradley Brown said. “Most of the year we have been the bigger team and the smarter team on the offensive line. They (offensive line) talk a lot, and they know what to do, they don’t have to guess much. And when they do guess, they usually guess right.

“But Buford’s guys were huge. They played really good and never fell apart. Most teams fall apart when we keep moving on them.”

Christmas said that North Hall’s ability to cruise by the majority of its region teams this season was something of a double-edged sword: Good to get the painless win, but not exactly going to prepare the team for playoff level competition.

Buford was certainly playoff level competition.

“That was definitely like playing a third-round playoff game,” Christmas said.

And, in what the center said was something of an ironic twist, North Hall played its toughest opponent of the regular season while being thin on the offensive line for the first time all year, as Easton sat out with an injury he received in the blowout win against Banks County — where North Hall ran all of 28 offensive plays — to clinch the region title.

With the team captain out, the left guard had to move to center, and a backup to the left guard spot.

Christmas said Easton will be ready to play Friday, barring an unexpected development during practice.

“It was frustrating, seeing us struggling on the field, and maybe I could have done something to help,” he said. “But it was better to get healthy so I can play this week.”

Woodward Academy, which could have clinched the Region 6-AAA title with a win over Cedar Grove in their final game — they lost 47-14 — and a little help, is not an easy first round opponent for a No. 1 seed, and a team Christmas said could be the toughest No. 4 seed in the playoffs.

The War Eagles will not, however, be likely to stymie North Hall’s offensive line quite like the Wolves, who held the Trojans to a season-low 232 yards rushing and 5.3 yards per carry.

“(The Wolves) don’t have weak spots defensively, and we gameplan to take advantage of team’s weak spots,” senior running back Kevin Christmas said. “And with our offense running is where we find the most holes.”

The team has already studied what Woodward Academy brings on tape, including a dynamic quarterback in junior Terry Googer and a speedy running back, and what weaknesses they can exploit.

“They have a really good quarterback, but we feel like we can own the line,” said Brown, who added the War Eagles are smaller on the line than Buford. “Statistically all we’ve got to get is 4 yards a carry; do that and we’re good.”

This season the Trojans have averaged 7.6 yards per rush, and running back T.J. Tate (746 yards), Kevin Christmas (701) and quarterback Brad Brown (660) have been just three of the leaders on an offense averaging 42.6 points per game.

And those stats are what Easton and the rest of the lineman like to see, because it means they’re continuing to reach their No. 1 goal.


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