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Tate runs Trojans past Johnson, 55-7
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North Hall’s T.J. Tate reaches for the second Trojan touchdown during of the first quarter of Friday night’s game against Johnson at The Brickyard. - photo by J. Bryan Stiles

The Blitz, complete high school coverage

T.J. Tate played in spread, I-formation and Wing-T offenses before moving back to North Hall for his senior year.

After the first two games of the season, the Trojans and their new wishbone offense look to fit the running back to a T.

Tate ran for three touchdowns and caught a fourth score as North Hall stampeded by Hall County rival Johnson 55-7 on Friday night at The Brickyard in Gainesville.

“The new offense, I love it,” said Tate, who was a student in North Hall in middle school. “I’m in love with this new offense. It’s just smashmouth football.”

He loves being back at North Hall even more, and being a part of the “Smash Brothers,” the name the deep running back corps has given themselves.

Friday night the Trojans (2-0) ran for 258 yards on 31 carries, with Tate — 10 carries for 82 yards and one reception for 33 yards — scoring all three of North Hall’s first-quarter touchdowns to lead the hosts to a 20-0 advantage after one quarter.

“We’ve got a pretty good stable of running backs,” said North Hall coach Bob Christmas, who added that he was impressed by the entire backfield.

“We have two quarterbacks and we trust both of them. Bradley (Brown) had a couple of beautiful throws. ... And Andrew (Smith) had two touchdowns on just a couple runs.”

The senior Brown was 3-of-4 passing for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Smith, the junior, carried the ball three times for 100 yards and two touchdowns, and added a 40-yard interception return for a score on defense.

Christmas was at least as pleased with the defense as he was with the offense. The Trojans defenders kept Johnson senior running back Cedric Harris (414 yards rushing in the first two games) to just 27 yards on 13 carries in the first half. Harris finished with 117 yards on 26 carries.

“I thought our defense played fantastic,” he said. “We knew we had to stop Cedric, and our guys stepped right up and got the job done.”

Tate, who also played defensive back, said the Trojans read in the papers how well Harris had done in leading Johnson (2-1) to a 2-0 record. He said they vowed to make sure that it would not, as some people had speculated, be a close game.

“We saw that he was getting over 30 carries per game, and we were excited to stop him,” Tate said.

Johnson, which fumbled three times and lost all three, in addition to an interception, recorded a total of 173 yards of offense.

New coach Jason Roquemore put the loss in a useful light.

“Right now, this is the best thing to happen to us,” he said. “We’ve got to come out and play each week. The game was almost too fast for us tonight.”

He added that the reality was that the Knights are still 2-1, and they get to come back out and play again next week.

For Christmas, a 2-0 start is a pleasant state to be back in after suffering early losses three of the last four years, including 0-3 last season. North Hall last started 2-0 in 2007, when the team went on to win 13 consecutive games before falling in the state semifinals.

This year, Tate’s been a big reason for the early success.

He followed up his breakout game in the opener with an even better first half against Johnson, running for three touchdowns and catching another as North Hall went ahead 48-0 after one half of play.

Eric Gonter also hauled in a 39-yard pass thrown by Brown, whose three completions were all for over 30 yards.

Tate put the Trojans ahead 20-0 with his feet. After a Johnson fumble on its own 21 yard line, Tate needed just one play to find the end zone, spinning away from a defender before crossing the line for the first score of the game, and the start of a big night for Tate and the offense.

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