ATLANTA — Coming into Friday’s game, it was the running backs, North Hall’s Imani Cross and St. Pius’ Geno Smith, who were supposed to steal the show.
But St. Pius X quarterback Trey White had different ideas.
White controlled the game from the start, rushing for 252 yards, 211 in the first half, and two scores, leading the Golden Lions past the North Hall Trojans 38-13 on Friday.
The loss dropped the Trojans to 0-2.
The bulk of White’s yards came on two touchdown runs of 68 yards and 67 yards, both in the second quarter.
After tying the game at 7 at the end of the first quarter on a 65-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Bradley Brown to wide receiver Wade Phillips, the Trojans defense collapsed just 33 seconds later, missing a number of tackles and allowing White to spring into the secondary and, eventually, the end zone.
He would add another score, a 67-yarder, with just over a minute remaining in the half.
“He’s tough, he’s really tough,” North Hall coach Bob Christmas said. “All along, he concerned me. His ability to run the football, he is a big strong guy. Talking to (St. Pius coach Paul) Standard before the game, he is the leader of this team. And I knew we had to stop him.”
Standard shared similar praise about his senior quarterback.
“Trey White is one of those guys that is a great leader and a great player, but he is very humble,” he said. “Geno has gotten a lot of press, and well-deserved, but Trey is, I think, an outstanding athlete and quarterback.
“He’s a great leader and competitor.”
White posed a problem for North Hall the entire game, extending drives and keeping the Trojan defense on the field.
The Golden Lions potent offensive attack totaled 435 yards, 421 on the ground, and was able to score o-n all but one of its drives, the lone failure coming on a missed field goal attempt in the fourth quarter.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons that we had to stop,” Christmas said. “And at times we did things well, but then we would have some mental breakdowns.”
St. Pius running back Jake DeLany added 112 yards in the game, 71 coming on a late touchdown run with the game in hand. The athletic Alabama commitment Smith was silent in the game, running the ball just twice for minus-4 yards.
North Hall was led on offense by Cross, who tallied 100 yards and a touchdown on the ground. His score came with 7:45 left in the game and cut the St. Pius lead to 31-13. Starting out of the wildcat formation, Cross powered through a number of potential tacklers, and rumbled 18 yards into the end zone.
He said after the game that a lot of the problem for the Trojans wasn’t just White’s athletic ability, but his own team’s inability to play mistake-free football.
“Offensively, they had a great game plan,” Cross said. “But we were making little mistakes, and giving them opportunities that you can’t give a good team.”
Both Christmas and Cross thought that their team did a much better job in the second half.
“We didn’t make a whole lot of adjustments for the second half,” Christmas said. “Our guys just started playing harder, with a little more heart.”
Cross echoed his thoughts.
“We just decided we had to settle down, relax and everyone go out and do their job,” he said. “I think we didn’t a good job of doing that in the second half.”
This more successful second half was much like a week ago when the Trojans fell behind in the first half before playing a strong second half, finishing with a 38-28 loss at Jefferson.
Christmas stressed that his team needed to do a better job coming out ready to play in the first half.
“Same kind of thing happened to us last week,” Christmas said. “I think talking about it helps, and we just need to come out of the blocks well. You know, we’ve just got to play 48 minutes of football.”
Even 0-2, though, Christmas is still optimistic about his team’s potential for the season.
“I’ll tell you,” Christmas said, “this football team’s getting better. It’s going to be a good football team down the stretch.
St. Pius will host North Springs High next Friday, while North Hall will travel to City Park to take on Gainesville. Both games will begin at 7:30 p.m.