David Bishop’s North Hall Trojans were master escape artists through the first month of the season, notching all their wins by 8 points or fewer.
Just when it looked like the Trojans would do it again, White County beat them at their own game Friday night.
In a hard-nosed battle of run-first teams, the Warriors edged North Hall 24-23 in a wild game that required overtime. White County coach Bill Ballard stood in a swarm of students following the down-to-the-wire contest on Homecoming night and his team’s first win of the season.
“You can’t beat it,” Ballard said of the environment. “This is what high school football is all about. If you didn’t care who won that game, you watched a great football game.”
The Trojans (3-1) overcame a 10-point halftime deficit but missed a 51-yard field goal in the waning seconds of the game, setting up the overtime finish.
Junior quarterback Kaleb Crane took an option keeper into the end zone on the first play of overtime, giving the Warriors (1-3) the leg up in the extra period. North Hall converted a fourth-and-3 on the ensuing possession before senior fullback Kyle Bacus scored the last of his three 1-yard touchdowns.
Bishop elected to go for the 2-point conversion to end the game, but junior Kirby King sniffed out the end-around and stuffed the rusher in the backfield to seal the win.
“In this situation, it’s a nonregion game. You play to win,” Bishop said of his decision, which he classified as a no-brainer. “We had a call, we stuck with it and we went for it.”
The wild second half and overtime were unlike the first two quarters, during which White County built a 14-0 lead. Crane (199 total yards) scored the first of three touchdowns on a 46-yard scamper before a Trojans fumble gave the Warriors a short field to extend their lead.
But North Hall responded in emphatic fashion.
A 13-play drive that chewed up more than seven minutes ended with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Bacus (29 carries, 129 yards). The fullback ran the ball on the final seven plays of the drive, the first of which helped the Trojans wiggle out of a third-and-12 situation.
“We didn’t play with a whole lot of fire in the first half,” Bishop said. “But our kids didn’t quit, so that’s something I can honestly say I’m proud of.”
Junior Brett Bardenwerper’s 39-yard field goal put White County up 17-7 at halftime, but his pair of third-quarter kicks went awry and let North Hall back into the game.
Bardenwerper missed a 37-yarder to cap the Warriors’ first drive of the second half, and he had his next attempt, a 45-yarder, blocked and returned all the way to the White County 31-yard line.
“We had a little adversity in the third quarter where we didn’t finish some drives,” Ballard said.
North Hall made the most of the big special teams play, using Bacus to convert a fourth-and-1 before he again forced his way into the end zone from 1 yard out. Junior Peyton Mavity then hit a 28-yard field goal to tie it at 17 with just more than 2 minutes left in the game before both teams squandered chances to win it in regulation.
That led to the exciting overtime period that saw Crane and King emerge as Homecoming heroes.
“Kaleb just played lights out,” a jovial Ballard said moments after embracing Crane amid the celebration. “The kid played on offense, he played on defense, he returned kicks. I mean, he was just gassed by the end of the game. But I’m so proud of his great effort.
“He made the plays that we needed him to make tonight to win the game.”