Spartans 38, Trojans 0
Difference maker: Isiah Rowe. His two blocked punts turned the tide in a tense first half. While the second punt was recovered by North Hall, it swung the momentum squarely to West Hall going into the halftime break.
Stat that matters: 4 first downs. West Hall’s swarming defense had North Hall’s rush attack figured out from the beginning and limited the Trojans to just four first downs in the game.
Turning point: Cameron Millsap’s 2-yard rush into the end zone with 6:16 left in the third quarter was the end of a six-minute, 10-play drive that wore down North Hall’s defense. The Trojans would then concede on each drive after that.
Who’s next: West Hall will travel to Bogart to take on North Oconee while North Hall goes on the road to play Carrollton.
It would be hard to blame West Hall head coach Tony Lotti if he felt a little conflicted after the Spartans’ 38-0 handling of county rival North Hall on Friday night.
On the one hand, his team tripled the Trojans’ rushing offense yardage, blocked two punts, recovered a fumble and scored on four straight possessions in the second half. It’s the first time since 2002 that West Hall has beaten the Trojans.
West Hall has outscored its first three opponents — all Hall County rivals — 97-0 this season.
On the other hand, his leading running back, junior Kwon Williams, was carted off with an unspecified rib injury halfway through the third quarter and could not continue.
The Spartans (3-0) will have a doctor look at Williams on Saturday to determine if he can play in next week’s road game against North Oconee.
But for now, Lotti and his West Hall crew will celebrate a historic victory for West Hall football.
“It’s gotta be big,” Lotti said after his team emerged from the locker room, screaming in victory. “It’s definitely great for our confidence. These teams that we’ve scheduled, they had our number in the past, but now we can go celebrate this win as a team.”
Four different Spartans scored in the rout, including two back-to-back scores by Jay Crawford in the final quarter.
It was Tyrese Osborne (5 carries for 16 yards) who opened the scoring early, his 4-yard rush through the middle putting West Hall up before the end of the first quarter.
The West Hall rushing attack, which ran roughshod over Johnson and Chestatee in previous weeks, failed to break down head coach David Bishop’s Trojan linebackers in the first half. The Spartans were held to just 96 total offensive yards, including Williams’ 29-yard dash to keep the touchdown drive alive.
North Hall appeared to ramp up its offense in the second quarter when running back Austin Perry (12 carries, 68 yards) busted a 40-yard run down the left flank for the visitors’ first new set of downs of the game.
But a sack and a short fumble ruined any Trojan momentum that had been building, pushing North Hall to a third-and-30 attempt. Senior Isiah Rowe blocked the ensuing punt on the next play, a decisive turning point of the game.
“It was definitely the thing that gave them the momentum,” Bishop said after the game. “We had both teams battling it out, but the fumble took the wind out of our sails. Defensively, we played real well, no doubt the best all year. But that drive really hurt us.”
Minutes later, kicker Bradley Hodgson connected on a 46-yard field goal to send West Hall into the halftime break with high spirits.
Lotti said he trusted that his senior kicker could get the job done.
“One hundred percent,” he said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have put him out there.”
A cautious first half soon turned into a blowout of a second half. West Hall’s Jacob Satterfield (7-10, 77 yards) guided his receivers for three consecutive first downs before Cameron Millsap rushed through a pile of Trojans for a 17-0 lead. The drive took up 10 plays and killed six minutes.
Controversy arose when Williams (7 carries for 46 yards) was laid out by a North Hall defensive back after Williams went up for a Satterfield pass. The ball sailed over Williams’ head, but the defender seemed to hit Williams in the ribs. No flag was thrown and Williams was quickly carted off into the West Hall locker room.
“I’ve got my own feelings about that play,” Lotti said of the contact. “I was standing there and saw what I saw, but I’m going to look at the tape and see what the tape says about all of it.”
Jacob Taylor recovered a fumble deep in North Hall territory two plays later and returned it 18 yards for the third unanswered touchdown of the night.
By the time Crawford made his way to the end zone, first from 5 yards and then from 38 yards, a rabid West Hall student section knew the victory was all but certain.
Maddox Turner (0-2, 0 yards) was sacked four times in the North Hall loss despite throwing just twice all game.
West Hall’s win, its third straight shutout this season, also makes it the first time since 2008 that the Spartans won their first three games of the year.
“North Hall has put together a tradition of winning,” Lotti said. “I’ve said it all year that I look to programs like them for what we’re building here at West Hall. Tonight, we’re going to celebrate a great win.”