Though only weeks into the high school football season, there is already a significant divide between two 8-AAA North teams.
While North Hall came into the year expecting to improve on its disappointing 5-5 finish a year ago, the Trojans have slipped in their first three games, falling to 0-3 for the first time since Bob Christmas’ first year as coach in 2001.
Meanwhile, Chestatee won on a late touchdown over Dawson County on Friday to push its record to 3-0 for the first time since 2007.
North Hall started slow in each of its first three games this season, falling behind both Jefferson and St. Pius X, 28-7, at the half. In both games, the Trojans performed better in the second half, something they could not do against rival Gainesville, losing 55-15.
While they have found great success running the ball, led by running back Imani Cross’ 472 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground, the Trojans have connected for just 107 yards through the air in three games.
Chestatee has found equal success on the ground, totaling 252.3 yards per game, but has also started to find more success in the passing game as well.
First-year starting quarterback Jordan Degraff, after a stellar game throwing the ball on Friday, has now passed for 370 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions on the season.
Chestatee will play Monroe Area on Friday, attempting to improve to 4-0 for the first time in the program’s history. North Hall will play Walnut Grove before traveling to Chestatee the following week. In nine meetings, the War Eagles have beaten the Trojans just once.
SPREADING THE LOVE: Much of Chestatee’s success this year has been driven by its production from a number of different players on offense. The War Eagles have four players with more than 130 rushing yards, each having scored a touchdown. They also have had four different receivers catch touchdown passes from Degraff.
This trait is reflected in other successful teams in the area. Gainesville has seen production from multiple players, particularly in the passing game. Red Elephants quarterback Deshaun Watson threw five touchdowns to five different receivers against North Hall on Friday.
Perhaps the most successful in this area has been Buford, Class AA’s No. 1-ranked team in the state.
Going into Friday’s game, nine different Wolves had scored touchdowns. The team kept with the trend as seven different players scored in its 49-0 rout of Therrell on Friday.
QUARTERBACKS DOING IT ALL: Habersham Central quarterback Kevin Ellison, who has been one of the more dynamic players in the area thus far in 2011, set his school’s record for career rushing yards on Friday.
Ellison ran the ball for 96 yards and a touchdown, bringing his career total for rushing yards to 2,811. On the season, he has 622 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground to go with his 383 yards and three touchdowns passing.
Elsewhere, Watson had a hand in eight touchdowns in the Red Elephants’ (2-1) win over North Hall on Friday, passing for five and running for another three.
The impressive performance improved his season numbers to 64 of 85 for 700 yards and seven touchdowns passing, and 28 carries for 225 yards and five touchdowns rushing.
GEARING UP FOR SUBREGION PLAY: While two area teams, Jefferson and Jackson County, have already kicked off their subregion slates, the majority will have to wait another week.
Jefferson got off to a good start in Region 8-AA South with a 57-29 win over Hart County, while Jackson County fell to East Jackson 21-12.
The majority of teams around the region will begin play in their subregions on Sept. 30.