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Offense usually gets top billing when North Hall football is mentioned. The Trojans have built an imposing reputation based on a physical, downhill running attack that remains intact in 2013.
But the North Hall defense showed Friday night it deserves its share of the spotlight as well, shutting down Johnson en route to a dominant 63-6 win.
“I thought we played great defense all night,” Trojans coach Bob Christmas said. “It’s kind of the same as last week; we held Chestatee to 43 yards in the first half (in a 33-15 win). Our defense is really playing great right now.”
Johnson (1-2) finished with 169 yards of offense, but managed only 20 in the first half. Nearly half of the Knights’ total for the game came on an 80-yard touchdown connection when Jamison Owen snagged pass from Kavin Hopkins and outraced the North Hall defense with 9:15 left in the third quarter.
By that point, however, the game was hardly in doubt. And when North Hall (2-0) recovered the ensuing onside kick and answered with a 50-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Smith to Dalton Lavendar that made the score 36-6, the outcome was all but assured.
“The scoreboard don’t show it, but we played hard,” Johnson coach Jason Roquemore said. “And when your kids are playing hard, you can build upon that. You can take a step in the right direction.”
North Hall thwarted the Knights’ double-slot triple-option running game from the first possession with quick penetration. The Trojans finished with six tackles for a loss and stuffed 11 more running plays for 1 yard or less.
The North Hall lead was 22-0 at the half and the Trojans put the game away with a four-touchdown, third-quarter flurry that started with a 38-yard scoring romp from Zac Little. It ended a little more than six minutes later with a winding 75-yard sprint from Andrew Smith that stretched the margin to 49-6 with 3:17 remaining in the third quarter.
Smith led the running game, which featured 13 different ball carriers, with 97 yards and two scores on 10 carries. Little added 93 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries. Isaac Seid chipped in 52 yards and score on six carries.
Smith, an All-State selection last season at defensive back, also contributed with a timely hit to break up a long pass, a tackle for a loss and a blocked PAT.
Offensively, it was something less than a vintage North Hall performance when it came to precision, and Christmas said he saw room for improvement. But as he also alluded to, when your team rushes for 355 yards on 42 carries like the Trojans did Friday night, there’s not much to complain about.
“At times we’re playing great, but I think up front we’re trying to overanalyze things a little bit,” Christmas said. “So we went in at halftime and said, ‘forget all your calls, forget everything. Apply your rules and just come off the football.’ And I thought we did much better in the second half once we started doing that.”
The Trojans face one final nonregion test next week when they travel to take on defending Class AA state champion Jefferson. North Hall will be off Sept. 20 before opening Region 7-AAA play against Dawson County on Sept. 27.
Johnson, which was led offensively by Jesse Griggs’ 70 yard on 19 carries, will try to regain the momentum picked up in last week’s 34-8 win over Oglethorpe County when the Knights travel to North Murray next week.