After four weeks of strong play on both sides of the ball, North Hall’s winning streak came to a screeching halt on Friday night against Franklin County.
In a crucial subregion game, the Trojans allowed 547 rushing yards, 338 to Lions running back Shaun Pulliam, and lost 54-37 at The Brickyard. It was their first loss since a Sept. 16 loss to Gainesville, and dropped them to third place in the subregion.
“Obviously, we didn’t have them prepared well,” North Hall coach Bob Christmas said. “We thought we did, but obviously we didn’t. Secondly, I think they’re a little better than we thought they were. And thirdly, I don’t think we played like we’re capable of playing.”
North Hall (4-4, 3-1 Region 8-AAA North) allowed just 8.8 points per game during its four-game winning streak, but was unable to stop the Franklin County triple-option, particularly its speedy running back.
Along with his 338 rushing yards, Pulliam scored on runs of 44, 55 and 18 yards. His first touchdown broke a tie late in the second quarter to give the Lions a six-point lead going into the half.
Quarterback Kevin Harris had tied the game on the previous Lions drive and Franklin County forced the Trojans to turn the ball over on downs. It took the Lions just one play on the next drive when Pulliam burst through the middle of the line and broke away for a 44-yard score.
North Hall fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but the Lions were unable to put any more points on the board.
Pulliam did it again to start the second half, running the ball 55 yards up the middle for a score just over two minutes into the third.
“I was worried about their linebackers at first,” Pulliam said. “They’ve got a good defense, but our offensive line did a great job. We’re unstoppable right now.”
Franklin County (4-4, 3-1) coach Tommy Welch echoed Pulliam’s sentiments.
“We had to block well,” Welch said. “They’re big and they’re strong and they’re well-coached, and I think our kids did a great job. Shaun and the offensive line both had a great game.
Despite a slow start offensively, the Trojans were able to get star running back Imani Cross moving late in the game. Cross finished with 230 rushing yards, 156 in the second half, and four touchdowns.
He got the North Hall scoring started in the first quarter with a 28-yard run, but was quiet for most of the game until adding three scores in the fourth.
He scored on runs of 17, 30 and 27 yards to help the Trojans mount a comeback, but the team was too far behind by that point.
“We thought that they were going to be in a 40-front,” Christmas said. “But they came out in their 30-front, and we probably didn’t do a good enough job making adjustments. That took us by surprise a little bit.”
Quarterback Bradley Brown was 7 of 11 for 97 yards through the air.
North Hall will try to rebound next week against Stephens County at home. Franklin County will travel to White County. Wins by both teams will create a three-way tie in the subregion.
“More than anything, it’s just a pride factor,” Christmas said of how his team will try to rebound next week. “We’ve got to realize that we are still in the race here, but more than anything we’ve just got to bow up and take care of business.”