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Football Player of the Week: North Hall's Imani Cross
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Honor roll

Scott Chewning, Chestatee: Had 118 yards rushing on 22 carries while going 9-for-13 passing for 186 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a loss to North Hall.

Harrison Dale, Banks County: Went 10-for-15 passing for 135 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a win over Union County.

Kurt Freitag, Buford: Had two sacks in a win over Decatur.

Cedric Harris, Johnson: Had 109 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown in a loss to Gainesville.

Patrick Jones, White County: Had two interceptions in a win over Lumpkin County.

Dylan Lackey, Banks County: Carried the ball 18 times for 90 yards and one touchdown and added one receiving touchdown in a win over Union County.

Ashely Lowery, White County: Had 191 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries in a win over Lumpkin County.

Chandler Newton, West Hall: Went 17-for-25 passing with 294 yards and three touchdowns, while running the ball eight times for 19 yards and a touchdown in a win over Walnut Grove.

Randy Olson, North Hall: Had 126 yards and one touchdown on five carries in a win over Chestatee.

Fred Payne, Gainesville: Had three interceptions in a win over Johnson.

Dre Pou, West Hall: Ran the ball 10 times for 109 yards and three touchdowns, while catching three passes for 40 yards and one touchdown in a win over Walnut Grove.

Ray-Ray Thomas, Gainesville: Had 92 yards and one touchdown on seven carries, while adding a 46-yard touchdown catch in a win over Johnson.

Markece Robertson, Gainesville: Had 41 yards and three touchdowns on four carries in a win over Johnson.

Deshaun Watson, Gainesville: Went 8-for-10 passing for 80 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Johnson.

Jamond Witt, East Hall: Had 11 carries for 236 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Rabun County.

Austin Mahaffey, East Hall: Had 11 carries for 174 yards and a touchdown in a win over Rabun County.

Offseason strength and agility drills are supposed to ensure that a football player continues to improve and stay healthy while not practicing every day.

But sometimes, things don’t go as planned.

As North Hall’s Imani Cross went through a backpedaling drill during the Trojans’ offseason workouts last spring, he heard a sound that every athlete fears: a pop near his ankle.

“It sounded like a balloon,” Cross said.

The pop turned out to be a torn Achilles tendon and led to more than four months of rehab.

That’s all behind Cross now, as he proved Friday night with a four-touchdown, 189-yard performance in North Hall’s 55-38 win over Chestatee.

For his efforts, Cross is The Times’ Football Player of the Week.

“If felt great,” Cross said of his performance.

Cross had touchdown runs of 59, 1, 42 and 34 yards Friday and averaged 18.9 yards per carry. Along with Clay Quinn, Mack VanGorder, Randy Olson and Shane Doster, Cross and the North Hall running game accounted for every North Hall touchdown. The Trojans ran the ball 33 times for 523 yards, while only throwing it 12 times. Four of those passes were completions and totaled 50 yards.

That’s a run-pass ratio of almost 3-to-1, which is just fine with North Hall’s coach, Bob Christmas.

“We’ve got a stable of backs,” Christmas said. “And we feel our running game is one of our strengths.”

Cross made his initial return to the Trojans two weeks ago at Walnut Grove and scored two touchdowns in limited playing time in a game North Hall won 40-0.

Even with his performance against Chestatee, one that saw him cutting across field and making moves that have the college scouts interested, Cross still admits to worrying about re-injuring his tendon.

“I do sometimes, I’m not going to lie to you,” Cross said. “Sometimes I’ll have thoughts in my head that I just don’t want it to ever happen again.

“Sometimes a thought comes in: ‘just be careful, Imani’ but that’s more before the fact than when I’m out there running.”

Christmas believes that, despite how well Cross played against Chestatee, the running back will only get better.

“He’ll get his confidence back more and more and his speed will keep improving,” Christmas said. “He’s going to have some great games.”

When it comes to the specifics of why Cross is a runner that schools such as Georgia Tech, Clemson and Nebraska have shown an interest in, Christmas points to two talents that can’t be coached.

“He’s got that big frame (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) and he’s got great vision,” Christmas said. “He’s just a special football player.”

Christmas will need Cross and the rest of the North Hall running backs to have big games this week.

The Trojans play host to subregion rival White County at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a battle that will likely decide which team gets the No. 1 seed in Region 8A-AAA.

“We’re really hyped,” Cross said of the this week’s game. “We know that we really need this win.”

Whoever emerges as the champion of the subregion will play for the region title during the last week of the season and earn an automatic berth in the state playoffs, a place North Hall has been every year since 2006.

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