Trojans 49, Indians 0
Difference maker: North Hall's Wade Phillips returned the opening kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown and added an 84-yard interception return for a score.
Stat that matters: Lumpkin County entered the game with a plus-13 turnover margin, but the Indians turned it over five times. North Hall lost one fumble on the night.
Turning point: Trailing 14-0 early, Lumpkin County drove inside the North Hall 5 yard-line, but Logan Moye fumbled at the goal line, giving the ball back to the Trojans at the 20. On the next play, Imani Cross went 80 yards untouched, and the rout was on.
Who's next: Lumpkin County travels to Stephens County on Oct. 21. North Hall returns home to host Franklin County.
DAHLONEGA — A rowdy pregame atmosphere in the North Hall locker room sparked the Trojans' best performance of the season. And it started from the opening whistle.
Wade Phillips returned the opening kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown, and Imani Cross rushed for 225 yards and four scores, fueling a 49-0 Trojan rout of reeling Lumpkin County on Friday night.
The dominating performance puts North Hall (4-3, 3-0 Region 8-AAA North) in excellent shape in the subregion. The Trojans can seal a spot in a region play-in game with a home win over resurgent Franklin County next week.
A win over Franklin also would setup a showdown with Stephens County with the winner earning a spot a region championship game and a berth in the state playoffs.
After an emotional win over White County to open subregion play, Lumpkin County (4-3, 1-2 Region 8-AAA North) has lost two straight by a combined score of 81-6 and must travel to Stephens County next.
Phillips' kick return set the tone early, but it was Cross' 80-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter that delivered the knockout punch.
Trailing 14-0, Lumpkin County drove inside the North Hall 10. Indians quarterback Logan Moye looked headed to the end zone, but fumbled at the goal line. The ball squirted out of the back of the end zone and the Trojans took over on the 20.
On the next play, Cross went untouched to the house, putting North Hall up 21-0 late in the first quarter. Lumpkin wouldn't threaten again.
Cross, who has committed to Tennessee, scored on runs of 80, 45, 5 and 1 yard on just 11 carries.
"You know it was rowdy (in the locker room) before the game," said Cross. "We didn't feel like we played well last week and wanted to come out with more emotion."
Phillips would add an 84-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and Zac Little scored on a short run to account for the Trojans' season high in points.
"We wanted to come out with a lot of energy this week," said Phillips, "because we kind of came out flat last week. The coaches were on us and warned us that there would be consequences if we came out slow again."
The Indians, who entered the game with a gaudy plus-13 turnover margin, turned it over five times. Ian McIntosh led Lumpkin County with 77 yards rushing, and Trevor Eudy added 53 yards on the ground and recovered a fumble.
"It's times like this when we need each other," said a dejected Lumpkin County coach Tommy Jones. "Everyone was very disappointed in that locker room. I don't really know what the difference has been (in the last two losses). We're still preparing the same way."
In contrast, North Hall coach Bob Christmas was ecstatic about his team's overall effort.
"Good football teams take steps forward, and tonight I thought we did that," Christmas said. "We really hit on all cylinders."
The Trojans finished with 320 yards rushing, led by Cross' big performance.
Cross is headed to Knoxville, Tenn., today to see the Volunteers take on No. 1 LSU from the sidelines. When asked for a prediction, he just laughed and said, "No prediction."