For as long as Bob Christmas has been the coach at North Hall, two things could be counted on from the Trojans: the wing-T and winning football. It’s ironic then, that after the program’s first losing season since Christmas’ first year in 2001, that the Trojans have rediscovered their winning ways with a new offense.
Though when talking about the wishbone, “new” is a relative term.
Scrapping his well-worn system for the down-hill running scheme popularized by the University of Texas in the 1960s, North Hall is off to its first 2-0 start since 2007, when the Trojans’ season ended in the Georgia Dome. And the rushing yards are coming in bunches. Led by T.J. Tate’s 195 yards, North Hall is averaging nearly 300 yards on the ground per game.
The switch only makes sense from a personnel standpoint, according to Christmas, who installed the wishbone in the offseason to better utilize his big group of offensive linemen.
Those linemen have helped the backs atone for the loss of more than 2,300 rushing yards from last year’s team via departed Imani Cross (now playing as a true freshman at the University of Nebraska) and Caleb Faulkner (now at Lakeview Academy).
The Trojans get one more tune-up opportunity — against a Jefferson team coming off a 28-6 win over Jackson County — before opening Region 7-AAA play with a much-anticipated showdown with fellow playoff contender Dawson County (2-1, 1-0).
LIONS ON A ROLL: For the first time since they began playing a varsity schedule in 2008, the Lakeview Academy Lions have opened the season with back to back wins.
But that’s only part of the reason for the good vibes swirling around Jock Horner Stadium these days. The Lions closed last season winning three straight and four of their last five, meaning Lakeview Academy is now on a program-best five-game winning streak, and the wins are coming in dominant fashion.
Including Friday’s 42-0 win over Hebron Christian, the Lions have outscored their last five opponents by a total of 158-40, or an average score of 32-8.
Faulkner has played his role, rushing for 139 yards in the season opener and scoring two touchdowns Friday, but it’s been a multi-faceted effort for Lakeview Academy. Faulkner and quarterback Ted Reynolds have each accounted for four scores, and in Friday’s game, Jackson Strickland scored twice and John Cox forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and picked off a Hebron pass.
SPEAKING OF 2-0 STARTS: The Trojans and Lions are just two of five area teams currently sitting at 2-0, and none are the usual suspects. With Gainesville and Buford splitting their first two games of the season, and Flowery Branch dropping its first two, the unbeaten records are coming from unfamiliar places.
White County, Commerce and Union County each won Friday night and are each off to their best start in at least a couple of seasons.
White County, which in Bill Ballard’s second year at the helm has thrashed Habersham Central and Lumpkin County by a combined score of 65-7, was last 2-0 in 2009, a year before the Warriors won the 8-AAA North subregion and advanced to the second round of playoffs.
Commerce, which hasn’t missed the playoffs since 1996, is 2-0 for the first time since the 2006 season that ended the state semifinals. The Tigers, as usual, are winning on the strength of their ground game and have rushed for more than 380 yards per game in wins over Jefferson and East Jackson.
After a win over Fannin County on Friday night, Union County is 2-0 for the first time since 2009, which was the Panthers’ only winning season since 2001. This year’s team is led by dual-threat quarterback T Bentley and a defense that is yielding just over 10 points per game.