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North Hall's Tate a big part of offensive production

Trojans face St. Pius X in Friday's Class AAA state semifinals

POSTED: December 5, 2012 9:24 p.m.

North Hall’s T.J. Tate was welcomed back by past teammates with open arms when he told his father it was time to return to Georgia for his final season of high school football. Right away, the Trojans knew Tate had the potential to add to deep backfields on both sides of the ball.

“T.J. doesn’t come off the field for us,” North Hall coach Bob Christmas said.

Tate has showed how much he appreciated being reunited with teammates from middle school by leading the Trojans in rushing (1,059 yards) and ranking second on the squad in touchdowns (13) through the first 13 games.

On Friday, Tate hopes to help North Hall (11-2) get past St. Pius X (11-2) in the Class AAA state semifinals at Maloof Stadium in Atlanta. Tate has his eyes set on helping North Hall earn the state championship, but doesn’t want to look past a very talented Golden Lions squad, which has won all three previous meetings against the Trojans (2009, 2010 and 2011).

“It feels amazing as a senior to still be playing this deep in the playoffs,” Tate said. “It’s just a feeling that is hard to describe.”

Tate, who played in the Junior Trojans program in middle school, made the move back to North Hall at the best time possible for a running back looking to contribute.

As the Trojans made the transition into the wishbone formation in 2012 without its two leading rushers from last fall, Tate was on even footing with every returning member in the Trojans’ stable of backs.

Tate left North Hall after his eighth grade year and played as a freshman in the Buford program. Then when his father got a job as a strength coach at the University of North Carolina the following year, he made the move north, playing at different high schools in both his sophomore and junior season.

Then almost out of the blue last spring, his father asked if he’d like to return to Georgia and play his senior season. Tate didn’t hesitate and gave a resounding yes.

When Tate moved back to the area, they entertained the possibility of having him play either North Hall, Lakeview Academy or Buford. So one day during the summer, Tate went to North Hall for summer conditioning and got to see so many familiar faces, including his good friend and fellow senior Kevin Christmas — the Trojans’ second-leading running back this season (1,038 yards, eight touchdowns).

Kevin Christmas said he was excited about the possibilities Tate brought to the offense, not to mention having his good buddy from middle school back in the same locker room.

“Once T.J. said he was coming back to play with us again, I loved it,” said Christmas, who played both years in middle school with Tate.

After just one day, Tate was convinced he was home and North Hall was where he wanted to play his final season, knowing then the Trojans had potential to have a special season. Those summer hopes have come to fruition this fall, thanks in no small part to Tate.

Last Friday, Tate had his best offensive production of the season with 182 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground, along with a catch for another touchdown in a stunning 52-10 quarterfinal win against No. 4 Peach County.

However, Tate has carried his weight all season for the Trojans. In Week 1, he ran for 113 yards and three scores against Class AAAA playoff qualifier Chestatee. The next week, he had another three-touchdown game, this time against Johnson.

Coach Bob Christmas says Tate provides the best burst of speed on the team, and the ability to “cut on a dime.”
“T.J.’s got the ability to make folks miss when he’s got the ball, good acceleration and good speed,” Christmas said.

However, the wishbone wouldn’t work nearly as flawlessly with just one target running back who, in turn, would receive all the defense’s attention. That’s not a problem for the Trojans, who have five ball carriers with more than 500 yards this season (Tate, Kevin Christmas, Andrew Smith, Zac Little and Bradley Brown). Tate, Smith and Brown all have at least 10 rushing touchdowns, as well.

Most of all, Bob Christmas said it’s the attitude of the guys running the ball that makes the wishbone set work.
“There are no egos at all,” he said. “They are just an unselfish group of players.”

The winner of the North Hall/St. Pius X game will face the Buford (10-3)/Cartersville (13-0) winner for the state championship at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Georgia Dome.


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