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North Hall clinches region title with 42-7 win
Trojans must beat Buford in finale to earn crown outright
North Hall’s Will Cape (28) and David Epps (37) Bring down Banks County’s Malcolm Mitchell (2) during first half Friday night at The Brickyard. - photo by J. Bryan Stiles

In case the play on the field didn’t paint a clear enough picture, the North Hall seniors wrote it on the field.

Below the already-painted Region 7-AAA, the group of 14 spray-painted the word “CHAMPIONS.”

With a 42-7 win over Banks County on Friday at The Brickyard, the Trojans grabbed their first region title since 2007 and fourth in program history.

“It’s exciting, we haven’t done it in a few years,” said North Hall senior receiver/defensive back Taylor Ryder, who finished with two receiving touchdowns and an interception. “Once we found out about Buford (forfeiting two games), we realized we had to win two of three to win region.

“But we want to beat (Buford). We want to win outright.”

Needless to say, the Trojans (8-1, 6-0) aren’t yet ready to move on to thoughts of postseason play even with the region title wrapped up. And, they play if next Friday in Buford like they did against Banks County, a region sweep isn’t out of the question.

North Hall rolled up 354 yards of offense — 296 in the first half — and scored enough to signal a running clock for the second half to wrap up a quick win.

Trojans quarterback Bradley Brown finished 4-for-4 passing for 103 yards and two touchdowns, both to Ryder. Fellow senior Kevin Christmas led the rushing attack with four carries for 107 yards and a touchdown.

North Hall’s defense held Banks County (3-6, 2-4) to 127 yards of total offense, and just 44 in the first half as the Trojans built a 35-0 lead. Banks County carried the ball 40 times but was held to just 1.6 yards per carry. The Leopards, a No. 2 seed in the Class AA playoffs a year ago, were also eliminated from playoff contention with the defeat.

“We’ve been preaching all week to finish strong, and I’m proud of the way they competed,” Banks County coach Philip Jones said. “North Hall’s a heck of a football team. They’ve got a chance to make a good run in the playoffs.”

The No. 1 seed guarantees at least two home playoff games for the Trojans, who advanced to the semifinals the last time they finished the regular season as region champs.

North Hall coach Bob Christmas said that this region title stands out.

“It’s great,” he said. “This is such a great group of kids, they don’t care who gets the credit.

“To be able to win a championship with this group is special, and to have my youngest son (Kevin Christmas) on the team as a senior, it’s neat.”

Still, like Ryder, Christmas said the game against Buford is still important. He added that the Trojans will use their entire arsenal, much of which they put on display against Banks County, when they take on the 2011 Class AA state runners-up in the regular season finale.

“They’re a solid football team, but we’ve just got to do what we do,” Christmas said. “If we need to throw the ball, we need to execute it, or if we need to run the option, we just need to execute our offense.

“And I know Buford has a great defense, but we’ve got a pretty good defense too.”

Both the defense and offense were clicking against Banks County.

North Hall junior Brannon Dyer opened the game with a kickoff return to the Banks County 39-yard line. Three plays later, Brown hit Ryder for a 17-yard touchdown pass, the first of two first-half hookups for the pair of seniors, both of whom were honored, along with the rest, during the senior night ceremony prior to the game.

After a three-and-out by the Leopards, the Trojans needed four plays to score a second time, a 6-yard pass from Brown to Ryder, on just Brown’s second pass, to take a 14-0 lead with 7:02 remaining.

Christmas said that, with Banks County packing the box, he decided to release the passing game that the Trojans work on but don’t need to use that often.

Banks County compiled 10 plays on its next possession and drove 32 yards before being forced to punt. North Hall didn’t waste time, driving 70 yards in three plays, capped off by a 45-yard touchdown run by Christmas, who ran straight up the middle. The score put the Trojans up 21-0 after one quarter.

Ryder intercepted a Banks County pass on the next drive, but North Hall gave it back on its first play when Leopards defensive lineman Trent Cape recovered a fumble.

Banks County linebacker Logan Hubbard also recovered a North Hall fumble later in the second quarter, but not before quarterback Andrew Smith finished another North Hall touchdown drive with a 33-yard run to go up 28-0.

Just before the half North Hall went ahead 35-0 on a two-play, 65-yard drive that included a 55-yard pass from Brown to Lee Shelton (two catches for 80 yards) and a 10-yard touchdown run by T.J. Tate.

Christmas finished the half with three carries for 67 yards. North Hall compiled 193 rushing yards and 296 total in the half, while holding Banks County to 44 total, 24 rushing.

After a Banks County three-and-out to start the third, Christmas broke free for a 39-yard run to set up Zac Little’s 14-yard touchdown run to put North Hall ahead 42-0 with 7:24 in the third.

Banks County scored with 1:33 remaining on a 28-yard pass from quarterback Noah Trebec to receiver Greg Cannon to cap a 10-play, 56-yard drive. Trebec finished 6-for-12 for 63 yards passing.

Banks County finishes the season next Friday against White County in Cleveland.

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