The North Hall defense couldn’t stop the legs of Westminster running back Zay Malcome Friday night in Atlanta as the Wildcats knocked the Trojans from the playoffs in the first round with a 49-18 victory.
The third-ranked Wildcats (9-2) will face the winner of Cook and Savannah, which play their opening game today.
North Hall (6-5) coach David Bishop has a lot of pride in his seniors, which were able to make the playoffs three out of their four years in the high school ranks though they never advanced past the first round.
“They have a lot of fight,” Bishop said. “A lot of it is pride in what we do and the community we have. They’re hard-working kids and top-notch kids.”
Senior Mac Bennett, visibly emotional after the loss, said his group of seniors has been “a pretty solid group of seniors.”
“We had some ups and downs this season, but, overall, we got back in the playoffs for the second time in a row after a rough sophomore season. That’s always a plus,” Bennett said. “You can’t win them all and we gave it our shot. I guess it’s just how it’s meant to be.”
Jack Brown was the player of the game for the Trojans, getting in the end zone for all three of his team’s scores on Friday.
The first possession of the night started out poorly for North Hall. The Trojans were called for holding on their first offensive play and Bishop said that was one of the biggest things to stand out in the game.
“To me, one of the biggest things that hurt was that first drive,” Bishop said. “You get the ball and then we had a holding penalty and now you’re fighting out of a hole right after they scored. To me, that was one of the biggest things to hurt us early in the game.”
Brown (14 carries, 116 yards, 2 touchdowns; 1 reception, 33 yards, touchdown) scored on North Hall’s second possession with a 1-yard run on a toss sweep to the left side. The Trojans drained a total of 6:56 between the end of the first and opening of the second quarter on the drive, which spanned 13 plays for 75 yards. The score cut the Wildcats’ lead to 14-6 with a failed extra point.
The Trojans had a chance to add another score before the break, but their drive stalled at the Westminster 36 as the Wildcats held up for a stop. The score would have cut the lead to 21-12, pending an extra point.
The Wildcats added another touchdown just before the half, but Bishop believes the score would have been big in the long run.
Brown rushed for a 41-yard score four drives later as the Trojans received the kick back from halftime.
North Hall quarterback Jackson Madonna found Brown for a 33-yard pass, his only completion of the game, to score on another drive which lasted from the third to the fourth quarter, spanning 81 yards and pulling nearly five minutes off the clock.
Westminster got out of the gate quickly, scoring on its first two drives with quarterback Ward Croft scoring on a 1-yard run on the opening drive.
Malcome went on to score the next five touchdowns for the Wildcats on runs of 4, 43, 50, 29 and 9 yards. On the night, he set a new school record for career rushing yards and notched his 48th-52nd career touchdowns. He finished the night with 21 carries for 253 yards.
“He’s a top-rate back,” Bishop said. “There’s times you’ve got to take your hat off to him and give him credit, he’s very talented. But there were times we had opportunities to make some plays with him and he just beat us in space.”
Croft scored the final touchdown of the game, a 2-yard scamper with 11 seconds left in the contest. Croft finished the game with 3 carries for -1 yard and two scores. He also connected on 8 of his 15 pass attempts for 175 yards.
Kyle Bacus led the Trojans in rushing for the night with 26 carries for 123 yards.
Overall, Bishop was proud of his group.
“I’m proud of our kids because they responded in the second half,” the coach said. “That’s a very good football team. We were able to do what we do and run the ball well.
“(Our kids) have fought through so much this year, injuries and all sorts of things. I’m just proud of the way they finished.”