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White County is playoff-bound, beats North Hall 40-14
Warriors will play at Cartersville in first round next Friday
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North Hall running back Austin Perry charges through the White County line as Carter Lee, right, tries to strip the ball away Friday night during the first half of the Trojans' game with the Warriors at The Brickyard.

The White County High football team is going back to the playoffs for a program-record third straight season and fourth time in five years.

A physical running game and a lockdown defense in the second half sealed the deal in a 40-14 victory against North Hall on Friday at The Brickyard.

The Warriors (6-4, 4-3 Region 8-AAAA) earned the No. 4 seed from Region 8-AAAA and will play at Cartersville in a first-round playoff matchup next Friday.

In addition to making it back to the postseason, the win gave White County consecutive triumphs against North Hall (2-8, 2-5) for the first time since winning four straight from 1980-87.

“We’re excited about the third year in a row going to the playoffs,” White County coach Bill Ballard said. “That’s a big deal for us. There’s a lot of excitement. We’re going to do the best we can against Cartersville, a very storied program.”

The Trojans scored first on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Drew Atha to Maddox Turner early in the second quarter, but Maurice Sutton helped the Warriors turn the tide with a trio of touchdown runs. He finished with 122 rushing yards and his three scores on 13 carries.

“Coach Ballard said that we had to come out hard, play physical, four quarters and just take it to them — and have fun, too,” Sutton said.

Sutton’s first score came when he carried tacklers downfield on a 22-yard run to cut it to 7-6 as the extra point missed with 6:30.5 left in the second quarter.

“Our guys have got a lot of resolve,” Ballard said. “They’ve played hard all year. Even in the games that we were outmanned, our guys fought to the last minute. I’m really proud of the way they play. That shows a lot of tenacity and grit they have.”

White County defensive lineman Andrew Posten recovered a North Hall fumble on the first play of the ensuing drive. Four plays later, Sutton’s 4-yard touchdown pushed the Warriors up 12-7 as they couldn’t convert the two-point conversion.

“They’re a big, strong, fast team,” North Hall coach David Bishop said. “And our kids, they’re learning to play at that level.”

Sutton ran through a tackle for a 27-yard scoring run to cap a five-play, 64-yard drive on the opening possession of the third quarter and pulled in a pass from A.J. Vandiver for the two-point conversion and a 20-7 edge.

Once White County was ahead, its defense took over. The Warriors held North Hall to 67 second half yards. The Trojans tallied 71 yards on their fourth-quarter scoring drive and minus-4 yards on their other four drives after the half.

“Our defense rose to the occasion and played very aggressively,” Ballard said. “We were able to get some blitzes off on some third-down situations and get some big plays.”

Bishop said the difference in White County was dramatic after halftime.

“Their kids turned it up another notch,” Bishop said. “They seemed to be playing at a total different level in the second half. They got to the point where they just said they’re going to bring the house. We just didn’t do a good job of picking up the blitz, and that kind of hurt us.”

Vandiver added a 7-yard touchdown run and Sam Turner a 10-yard scoring run to make it 33-7 early in the fourth quarter.

Maddox Turner’s 6-yard touchdown run with 5:32.5 remaining cut it to 33-14 before Sam Turner bolted around the left side for a 53-yard touchdown run on the next play from scrimmage to push it to the final margin.

Sam Turner had 76 yards and two touchdowns on five carries for White County, which got 50 yards on 12 carries from Max Taylor and 39 yards on seven carries by Vandiver.

Maddox Turner totaled 101 offensive yards (79 rushing, 22 receiving) and two touchdowns to pace North Hall.

“You’ve got to say a lot about North Hall,” Ballard said. “If you watch them game one and you watch them now, they’ve improved a lot this year.”

Bishop is looking ahead to 2015 and how his team can build on winning two of its final three games after starting 0-7.

“We still have a lot of growing to do,” Bishop said. “But we’ve already started preparing in the weight room for next year (and) with nutrition.”

The Warriors held a 217-67 yardage advantage in the final two quarters after both teams had 121 yards of offense in the first half. White County had 293 rushing yards on 41 carries.

“This senior class is a special senior class,” Ballard said. “This is the senior class I came in with. They were freshmen, and now they’re seniors. They’re fun. They’ve worked hard. They’ve run track for us. They’ve lifted weights. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them.”

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