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Trojans' magical run ended by St. Pius, 31-6
Pius shuts down North Hall running game to dominate semifinal
St. Pius X’s Casey Wilson attempts to take down North Hall’s Andrew Smith during Friday’s state semifinal playoff game in Atlanta. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Golden Lions 31, Trojans 6

Difference maker: St. Pius running back Ryan Braswell scored two touchdowns and rushed for 130 yards. 

Stat that matters: North Hall failed on three of four fourth-down attempts.

Turning point: St. Pius’ Ryan Braswell scored on a run from the 4 late in the third quarter to extend the lead to 21-6. 

Who’s next: St. Pius X faces Buford for the Class AAA state championship at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Georgia Dome. North Hall’s season is complete at 11-3.

ATLANTA – For most of the season, North Hall’s wishbone offense was able to run at will. In Friday’s Class AAA state semifinal game in Atlanta, St. Pius X had the answer time and time again. 

The Trojans were held to just 192 yards on the ground, 91 yards in each half, and the Golden Lions scored a pair of third quarter touchdowns to pull away for a 31-6 victory at George B. Maloof Stadium.

“St. Pius did a very good job of keeping us off balance on offense,” North Hall coach Bob Christmas said. “We call plays at the line of scrimmage and they were giving us a different front on almost every play.”

Still, Christmas never faulted the effort of his group after the Trojans missed out on the postseason each of the last two seasons, and came just one game short of playing for the state championship in 2012.
North Hall’s season ends with an 11-3 record.

“This was a remarkable team we had this season at North Hall,” Christmas added. “There wasn’t a day this season that I didn’t look forward to coming to practice.

“They all truly cared about each other on this team.”

Senior T.J. Tate led the Trojans with 23 carries for 114 yards rushing. Senior quarterback Bradley Brown completed four passes for 75 yards, including the team’s only score on a 30-yard pass to Lee Shelton in the second quarter. 

“The thing about playing North Hall is that you have to sell out to stopping the run,” St. Pius X coach Paul Standard said. “Our defense played its hearts against a great offensive football team North Hall has.

“Coach Christmas and his staff do a great job with that program.”

However, the night offensively belonged the St. Pius X , which also makes its living running the ball.

Led by Ryan Braswell and his two rushing touchdowns and game-high 130 yards, the Golden Lions (12-2) took control of the game with its long drives. Leading 14-6 in the third quarter, they marched downfield on a 10-play drive and scored on Braswell’s 4-yard run, his final score of the night

The big play of the drive was an over-the shoulder catch by Branden Mitchell for 30 yards down the sideline.

With the win, St. Pius moves on to face Buford (11-3) at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Georgia Dome for the Class AAA state championship. The Golden Lions are seeking their first state championship since 1968. 

Trailing 14-6 going into the second half, Christmas’ goal was to stick with primarily running the ball. St. Pius  secured the victory with a Daniel Crochet interception of a Brown pass late in the third quarter with the Golden Lions leading 28-6 at the time.

“North Hall’s an offensive much like ours,” Standard said. “Once you get down by a couple of scores, it’s hard to come back.”

Later in the third quarter, Golden Lions tight end J.P Graves scored on a 34-yard pass by quarterback Jack Spear, following a North Hall failed fourth-down run attempt.

North Hall failed on three fourth-down attempts and threw two interceptions. The Golden Lions scored 17 points off Trojan turnovers. 

Early on, it was St. Pius that took advantage of a critical turnover. After North Hall failed on a fourth and 14 attempt deep in Golden Lions territory in the opening quarter, Spear scored for St. Pius on a 54-yard run up the middle on the first play of the drive.

St. Pius rushed for 210 yards, a shade over 5 yards per attempt. 

Leading 7-6 in the second quarter, St. Pius answered with a 38-yard touchdown run by Braswell.

Even though North Hall only scored once in the opening half, it put together some long time-consuming drives. After stopping St. Pius on the game’s first drive, the Trojans went on a 10-play drive that was halted when Brown was flushed out of the pocket on fourth-and-14, losing 3 yards on the run. 

Spear scored on the first play of the drive for St. Pius on his long touchdown run.

Later in the first quarter, North Hall pieced together another 10-play drive that lasted until early in the second quarter. The drive stalled when the Trojans failed on another fourth-down attempt.

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