North Hall picked a perfect time to turn in what coach David Bishop described as the program’s best performance in almost two years.
The Trojans scored three touchdowns with the help of two muffed punts and a fumble by West Hall on Friday, and pulled a stunning 24-10 upset win over the Class AAA ninth-ranked Spartans at The Brickyard.
North Hall (1-1) outscored West Hall 17-0 in the second half and limited the Spartans (2-1) to just five first downs in the game.
“(Defense) was one thing I felt we were going to be better at this year,” Bishop said.
“(We had) a lot more kids returning on defense, we simplified the system a little bit and we were going to take a few more chances because we were comfortable in it. That was big and the kids just made plays when they needed to make plays, and I can’t be more excited for our kids right now.”
North Hall running back Kyle Bacus rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. The Trojans finished with 250 yards of total offense, with 208 of those yards coming on the ground.
“I have to say, if it wasn’t for the (offensive) line, none of those runs would have been made and I just thank them for that,” Bacus said. “We work hard and just bust our butts every week.”
All 10 of West Hall’s points came via special teams.
West Hall’s vaunted rushing attack was held to just 4 yards, and the Spartans finished with a total of 93 yards. Three of the Spartans’ five first downs in the game came on a second-quarter drive that resulted in a field goal, while the final two occurred in the fourth quarter during a drive that ended with a turnover on downs.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Dave (Bishop) and what (North) did,” West Hall coach Tony Lotti said. “They came out with a good plan, milked the clock and we did not play very well tonight.
“(North) did a very good job of staying fundamentally sound and not putting the ball down. We’ve lived off the hog there for the last two weeks and this week we got complacent and it got us, but congrats to (North).”
North Hall took advantage of several critical mistakes by West Hall in the second half. The Trojans recovered a fumble at the Spartans’ 21 on the first play of West Hall’s second series in the third quarter. That led to a 32-yard field goal by Chris Dennis, tying the game at 10.
“We did not have a good focus week this week and it showed out here,” Lotti said.
“The point I’m able to make to these guys is ... you get a result on Friday (based) on your preparation. We had a lot a lot of distractions where we didn’t prepare (well enough) but it’s like I told them, if this was going to happen, I’m glad it happened right now (when) it’s not a region game.”
Trojans quarterback Jackson Madonna delivered the big strike North Hall needed on the first play of the Trojans’ next possession when he hit Sam McDonald in stride on a 42-yard pass down to the West Hall 26-yard line. It was the Trojans’ lone pass completion.
Baccus did most of the work from there, capping a seven-play, 68-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard plunge to put North on top for the first time. The Trojans extended the lead to 17-10 on the extra point by Dennis with 10:16 remaining.
“We put that new (Wing-T) offense in and we were just missing things little by little every week,” Bishop said.
“The kids ... worked all week on the mistakes we made (last week against Jefferson) and this one was good, this was sweet to watch our kids take advantage of turnovers.”
West Hall later muffed a punt for the second time, this time just inside its own 5-yard line. One play later, Baccus rumbled into the end zone to give North Hall a 24-10 lead with 3:54 remaining.
The Spartans picked up their only two first downs of the second half on the ensuing series, but the drive ended in a turnovers on downs due to another high snap that quarterback Jacob Satterfield was forced to fall on at the West Hall 40.
North Hall burned off the remainder of the clock with the help of two West Hall personal foul penalties on fourth downs.
“We had to let that (season-opening loss to Jefferson) go,” Bacus said of the Trojans’ 35-0 defeat at the hands of the Class AAA third-ranked Dragons last week. “We’re full speed and ready to play.”
North Hall came up with the first big play of the game when Gavin Berry recovered West Hall’s first muffed punt at the Spartans’ 16-yard line early in the second quarter. The Trojans got the ball down to the West Hall 3 before being pushed back to the 9.
West Hall’s special teams unit then blocked a 26-yard field goal attempt, and Tyquan Statham recovered the ball and returned it 84 yards for a touchdown with 5:30 left before halftime.
The Trojans didn’t allow the momentum swing to take them out of the game.
Bacus broke a 63-yard run down to the West Hall 14 on the second play of the ensuing series. Two plays later, he punched the ball into the end zone from 3 yards to tie the game 7-7 with 3:25 remaining following the extra point by Dennis.
“It was about how we responded,” Bishop said. “We turned around and marched it right down the field and scored to tie it up, an that’s when I knew we were OK. I don’t care how good or bad a game is, there’s always going to be good things and bad things, and really it’s how you bounce back.”
West Hall, which had just 12 yards of offense up to that point, started the ensuing series at its own 20 before maneuvering down to the North Hall 9-yard line for a field goal. Satterfield (9 of 18, 89 passing yards) completed his first three passes of the night for 50 yards during the drive.
North Hall hosts Carrollton next Friday. West Hall will host North Oconee.