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Game of the week: Smith leads North Hall against Peach County

POSTED: November 29, 2012 6:49 p.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

North Hall's Andrew Smith tackles Morgan County running back Michael Gray during the Trojans' win last week at The Brickyard.

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North Hall junior Andrew Smith will be sporting a unique, mullett-esque haircut under his helmet going into Friday's quarterfinal playoff game, and he has only himself to blame.

Before last Friday’s game he told teammate T.J. Tate that if the Trojans (10-2) were to advance to the final eight, he would let the senior running back give him a haircut.

Then, last Friday at The Brickyard, the 5-foot-7, 140-pound Smith let loose a series of events that gave the Trojans a lead they never lost on their way to a 13-9 win over Morgan County.

First, he returned a punt for a touchdown. On the ensuing Morgan County possession, Smith, now at free safety, intercepted a pass. Back on offense Smith, now at quarterback, broke free for a long touchdown run, completing a 13-point swing.

“I like to make the most of my time with the ball,” he said Thursday, soon after showing his coach the new haircut.

North Hall coach Bob Christmas didn’t exactly praise the new cut, but he can’t stop praising the player underneath.

“He just loves to play ball,” Christmas said. “He’s one of those kids that has a great time at practice. He has great instincts, he’s a great competitor, and he has great athleticism.

“And when you combine those traits, that’s special.”

And all this from a player who didn’t define his full role on the team until after the 55-7 win over Johnson in the second game of the season, in which Smith carried the ball three times from the quarterback position for 100 yards and two touchdowns.

“At first I played a little running back, wide receiver,” said Smith, who last season had only been the backup quarterback on offense. “Then after Johnson, Coach came to me and said we’ll incorporate you more into the offense.”

The increased use — he’s been under center about a third of North Hall’s plays — has paid off.

After 12 games, the punt returner/kick returner/quarterback/free safety has rushed for 553 yards and nine touchdowns on 47 attempts (an 11.8 average), has completed 10 of 15 passes for 73 yards and seven touchdowns, and has two touchdowns in the return game. On defense, he leads the team with 139 tackles.

He’ll likely be needed to perform well in each of those capacities for North Hall to defeat Peach County (11-1), the 2011 state runners-up, Friday at The Brickyard.

“Peach County is loaded with athletes, has the top receiver prospect (senior Demarcus Robinson, 808 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns) in the state, and their No. 2 is just about as good,” Christmas said of the other Trojans. “What we’re going to have to do is put together some big drives and keep their offense off the field.

“And they’re probably the best defense we’ve played all year, along with Buford.”

This season Peach County has allowed an average of 133.8 rushing yards per game against and 232.7 yards total, along with just 11 points per game. The team allowed no more than 26 points in any game this season, and that was in a nine-point loss to Region 2-AAA champion Carver-Columbus. Only the Tigers and Warner Robins managed to rush for over 300 yards against Peach County, something North Hall, which has rushed for 336.8 yards per game, will try to do Friday.

In addition to Smith’s all-purpose contributions, North Hall has four other players with 500 or more yards rushing, including running backs Tate (877 and 11 TDs), Kevin Christmas (866 and 6) and Zac Little (524 and 7), along with quarterback Bradley Brown (691 and 14).

Peach County counters with an offense based out of the I- and the single-back formations, and led by senior quarterback Greg Williams, who is 116-of-182 passing for 2,012 yards and 22 touchdowns with only four interceptions. Running back Keyshawn Lowe has run for 1,081 yards and 11 touchdowns for an offense that averages 35 points per game, four fewer than North Hall, which also allows just 13 points per game.

The stats don’t paint one as much more of an underdog than the other, but Peach County has the recent pedigree, having won six of its seven quarterfinal games played in the last 10 seasons, including a 19-15 win last season against Carrollton.

But this North Hall team has run a balanced, ground-based wishbone attack back to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2007, and this North Hall team has a do-everything junior in Smith — the new haircut included.


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