North Hall coach Bob Christmas was even a little shocked by this one. He wasn’t surprised that the Trojans won and secured a spot in the state semifinals, just the way it happened.
Behind a dominating offensive performance and solid defense all night, North Hall pulled away for a 52-10 win in the Class AAA state quarterfinal contest against Peach County on Friday at The Brickyard.
“I didn’t see this coming,” Christmas said after helping North Hall secure its second state semifinal berth in school history. “But our team was really focused tonight and played with tremendous heart.
“I sensed that they had no fear going up against (Peach County).”
With the win, North Hall awaits St. Pius X (11-2), a 40-35 quarterfinal winner over Washington County, in the state semifinals. Friday’s game location will be determined by a coin flip.
With the gravity of the win, Christmas ranked it as the No. 1 win in his 12 seasons at North Hall. Friday’s dominating performance after falling behind 7-0 early in the first quarter made it easy to understand.
With the win, North Hall has now won 10 straight home playoff contests. Its seniors were overjoyed by the prospects of still playing with only four teams in the running for the state title in Class AAA.
“This just feels unbelievable,” North Hall senior lineman Patrick Chappell said.
North Hall had little resistance to its wishbone running attack from Peach County (11-2), running crisply all four quarters and finishing with 430 yards on the ground and 497 yards of total offense.
T.J. Tate led North Hall with 18 carries for 182 yards and two rushing scores. Kevin Christmas had 172 yards rushing for North Hall and a pair of touchdowns.
“We have to hand it to North Hall, they took it to us all night long,” Peach County coach Chad Campbell said. “We’re not very big up front and they did a good job of pounding our tail up and down the field.
“Everything we tried, they had an answer to it.”
Peach County started the night with all the momentum, scoring two plays into the opening drive on a 39-yard run by Keyshawn Lowe. Peach County senior receiver Demarcus Robinson finished the night with six catches for 147 yards.
However, after falling behind a touchdown early, coach Christmas wouldn’t let his team lose its focus.
“I told them after the touchdown, ‘Hey, we spotted them seven, now let’s play football,’” Christmas said.
North Hall wasted little time getting back into the mix in the first quarter. Four plays into its first offensive possession, Tate sprinted 48 yards for the score, even with a defender hanging from his pads for the final yards to the end zone.
North Hall’s second offensive possession was just as smooth, taking just eight plays to score again, including a 37-yard pass completion from Bradley Brown to Taylor Ryder, capped with an 11-yard scoring run by Kevin Christmas.
North Hall went up 21-7 late in the first quarter on Tate’s only reception of the game, a 23-yard touchdown pass from Brown.
Execution was a big issue for Peach County, a three-time state champion since 2005. A blocked punt in the first quarter led to Tate’s touchdown reception. Peach County also dropped a dozen passes.
Trailing 24-10 in the second quarter, Peach County was stopped for no gain on a run attempt up the middle on fourth-and-1.
After turning the ball over, North Hall started at its own 40 at scored again with just 1:01 left in the first half. Tate scored the touchdown on a run from the 5.
North Hall junior Andrew Smith scored its final touchdown of the night on a run from the 7 late in the fourth quarter, just minutes after he left the game momentarily after a collision from his defensive back position with Robinson after a long pass completion.
Smith said this win was as complete of a performance as possible.
“I’m speechless,” said Smith, who also had an 80-yard punt return in the second half. “It was a great team win from top to bottom.”
Lowe led Peach County rushing with 12 carries for 66 yards. With the loss, Peach County’s season is now finished.