Trojans 28, War Eagles 17
Difference maker: North Hall’s Sam Jackson had a 41-yard reception that set up Drew Atha’s 1-yard touchdown run for the game’s first score in the second quarter. Then, his 31-yard interception return in the third quarter allowed Maddox Turner to find the end zone on a 7-yard run on the next play.
Stat that matters: 3 first-half drives inside North Hall 20, 3 points for Chestatee. The North Hall defense tightened when it needed to in keeping the War Eagles out of the end zone on three deep drives in the first two quarters.
Turning point: On the drive following a Chestatee field goal to cut the Trojans’ edge to 7-3, Mac Bennett made a catch on the right sideline, broke a tackle and stayed inbounds for a 51-yard score and a 14-3 advantage.
Who’s next: North Hall (2-7, 2-4 Region 8-AAAA) hosts White County in its finale next week, while Chestatee (1-8, 0-6) looks for its first region triumph against winless Monroe Area.
After dropping its first seven games this season, the North Hall football team has a winning streak and bragging rights.
The Trojans (2-7, 2-4 Region 8-AAAA) held Hall County rival Chestatee (1-8, 0-6) to three points on three first-half trips inside the North Hall 20 before their offense kicked into gear for a 28-17 victory on Friday night at War Eagle Stadium.
A fumble and a missed field goal ended the War Eagles’ scoring chances on two of those drives.
“That was huge for us, especially giving us a little bit of momentum and being able to hit some big plays on offense,” North Hall coach David Bishop said.
North Hall safety and quarterback Drew Atha pulled down an interception, setting up his 1-yard touchdown run six plays later for a 7-0 edge with 8:40 left in the second quarter. Atha also had a 13-yard run the play before his touchdown. The junior has been continuing to round into form after missing the season’s first three games due to an Achilles injury.
“Having him back on the field is huge,” Bishop said. “He’s a leader for us on both sides of the ball.”
Jaime Ortega’s 36-yard field goal for the War Eagles with 3:41 to play in the half cut it to 7-3.
But the Trojans needed just six plays to go 80 yards for a 14-3 lead. The majority of that yardage came on Atha’s 51-yard scoring pass to Mac Bennett, who pulled in the reception, broke a tackle and managed to stay inbounds down the right sideline for the momentum-turning score.
Sam Jackson returned an interception 31 yards to set up a 7-yard Maddox Turner touchdown run on the next play as North Hall built its edge to 21-3 with 3:35 remaining in the third quarter.
Logan Cates’ 33-yard touchdown reception from A.J. Sijiye to finish off a four-play, 65-yard drive cut it to 21-10 briefly with 2:45 to go in the third quarter.
But Bobby Mendenhall’s 3-yard scoring run with 10:52 left in the contest pushed it to 28-10. Mendenhall had five carries for the final 32 yards of that eight-play, 54-yard drive.
Bishop’s team has an opportunity to close its season on a three-game winning streak next week.
“I’ve been telling the kids, ‘It’s not what you do when it’s easy. It’s what you do when it’s hard that determines what kind of man you are,’” Bishop said. “They probably played their best defensive game tonight, and I’m very proud of them.”
Sijiye’s 9-yard touchdown run with 1:07 remaining cut it to the final margin.
“I felt like we played good enough on defense,” Chestatee coach Bill Forman said. “But we’ve got to get it done on the offensive side of the ball and take care of the football.”
Atha had 92 passing yards and a score on just two completions, and he added 47 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Turner paced North Hall’s rushing attack with 64 yards and a score on 13 carries. Jackson tallied one reception for 41 yards.
Sijiye totaled 88 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries while also completing six passes for 84 yards and a score, and Tray Bryant added 56 yards on 15 carries. Cates split time with Sijiye at quarterback and threw for 49 yards with two interceptions.
Marvin Rosario pulled in three receptions for 51 yards for Chestatee, which got four receptions for 34 yards from Brian Dickson.
Forman was pleased with the way his guys battled back after falling behind by 18 twice.
“That’s been our kids’ M.O. — they don’t quit,” Forman said. “They play hard. They’ve got a lot of heart, and that’s what I love about them. They just fight, fight, fight. That’s the thing we’re going to build on for the future.”
Austin Perry paced the North Hall defense with 12 tackles, including seven solo stops, and Mendenhall had nine tackles (seven solo).
Chestatee held a 302-281 yardage edge and a 16-10 advantage in first downs, but the War Eagles also had four turnovers that led to 14 of the Trojans’ points.
North Hall hosts White County in its season finale next Friday, the same night Chestatee closes the season at winless Monroe Area.