Trojans 28, Warriors 14
Difference maker: North Hall running back Caleb Faulkner ran for 100 yards and three touchdowns with the Warriors focused on stopping the team's leading rusher, Imani Cross.
Stat that matters: Despite getting the win, North Hall managed just 249 yards of total offense, inluding only 51 on the ground from Cross.
Turning point: Up 14-7 nearing halftime, the Trojans' Andrew Smith intercepted White County quarterback Will Brock's pass and took it down to the Warrior 12-yard line, setting up another Faulkner touchdown before the half to give North Hall a 21-7 lead.
Whos next: North Hall will travel to play at Lumpkin County on Friday; White County will play at Stephens County, also on Friday.
CLEVELAND — When running back Imani Cross took his first carry of the game 27 yards down the field, it looked like it would be same stuff, different day for the North Hall offense.
But after Cross was subsequently shut down by a determined White County defense, North Hall looked to its other running backs to pick up the slack.
Behind 100 yards and three touchdowns on the ground from junior Caleb Faulkner, the Trojans (3-3, 2-0 8-AAA North) picked up a hard-fought 28-14 win at White County on Friday. Zac Little, who missed last week’s game due to injury, added 55 yards on 12 carries.
“I thought (White County) did a good job stacking up and defending the sweep,” coach Bob Christmas said after the game. “I didn’t think we did a real good job blocking for (Imani), so we started running the trap and the blast and had a little more success with it.”
After carrying four times for modest yardage, Faulkner got his big game started with a 30-yard run into the end zone near the end of the first half.
After North Hall’s Andrew Smith returned an interception 43 yards to the White County 12-yard line, Faulkner got another chance.
He pounded the ball 1 yard up the gut for his second touchdown of the game to give North Hall a 21-7 lead going into the half. He capped off his game with a 2-yard touchdown run with just over four minutes remaining in the game.
It was Faulkner’s second consecutive 100-yard game after he gained 120 on the ground against Chestatee last week.
Like Cross a week ago, Faulkner attributed his success to the hard work put in by his offensive line.
“I can’t do it without my line,” he said. “I really wish my line was here to back me up right now, because, without them, I’m nothing.
“We get the ball and most of the glory, but, really, they should be getting most of it.”
Cross, the second-leading rusher in the area, was silenced in the first half with the exception of a 27-yard run on the first play of the game. He ran only twice in the second half, finishing with 51 yards on the ground and no touchdowns.
The Trojans’ other touchdown came on a 19-yard pass by quarterback Bradley Brown to Eli Gilmer in the second quarter. Brown finished 2 of 4 for 33 yards to go with his touchdown pass.
Brown left the game late in the second quarter after a big collision on a kickoff. Christmas indicated that Brown may have suffered a concussion, but was unable to make any statements about his availability in the immediate future.
Despite the successful outcome, Christmas was not pleased with the way his team played in the game.
“It would be worse if it was a loss,” he said with a laugh. “Happy with the win, but not happy with the way we played.”
He added that he thought the Warriors “took it to” his team in the game.
“I thought that they out-hit us and I thought that they played harder than we did,” he said.
Christmas added that he thought this game could serve as a reality check for a team that had blown out its last two opponents and appeared to be on the upswing going into subregion play.
White County (1-5, 0-2) was led by the tandem of quarterback Will Brock and Jeffery Scoggin, who connected for two touchdowns in the game, a 30-yarder and a 58-yarder. Brock also threw two interceptions, one that resulted in a score for the Trojans.
Warrior offensive coordinator Jake Cantrell noted his team’s inability to run the ball as a major factor in the offense’s struggles.
“Offensively, we pride ourselves on running the ball, and (North Hall) committed a lot of guys in the box to slow us down,” he said. “We tried to use the play-action pass to beat that, and it worked a couple of times, but we also threw a couple of picks.
“It’s a case of a young quarterback midway through his first year as a starting quarterback, and basically having to grow up under fire.”
Brock finished 5 of 11 for 115 yards.
North Hall will take on Lumpkin County in Dahlonega next week, while White County will travel to Stephens County.