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'The driving force' behind it all: Selfless work of North Hall's offensive line the catalyst for Trojans' success
Trojans set to clash with No. 2 Cedar Grove in second round of Class 3A football playoffs
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North Hal's JT Fair looks for running room Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, during the first half of the Trojans game with Chestatee High at The Brickyard.
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North Hall's Austin Sullens celebrates a fumble recovery for the Trojans during the first half of their scrimmage with Gainesville High Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, at The Brickyard.

Coming into a second-round playoff game against Cedar Grove, the North Hall High football program has already enjoyed a record-breaking year offensively. The Trojans (9-2) have scored the third-most points per game over a season in school history and even broke the single-game mark for scrimmage yards earlier in the year. 

And while much of that success has come behind the production of skill position players like Daniel Jackson and JT Fair, there’s one unit that has had a hand in every single yard gained this season — the guys up front. 

“When you play a game, you’re going to take at least 50 to 60 snaps, and in the Wing T, you’re going to run it about 50 times out of 60,” North Hall coach David Bishop said. “So just thinking about that, whatever percentage that is just kind of gives you an idea of the importance of those guys, knowing what we’re doing and knowing how we’re doing it, and then being able to execute.”

Whether it’s been Jackson, Fair, quarterback David Seavey or any other of the Trojan’s weapons carrying the ball, the offensive line of Logan Jackson, Dylan Hughes, Nate Nixon, Austin Sullens, Micah Holman and Seth Carlton has been leading the way, doing the dirty work while hardly garnering any recognition for it. 

“You’ve got to have just a different type of mindset,” Bishop said of his linemen. “You’re never touching the football. You’re never going to be called out on the PA for doing something special. You live behind the scenes. Most of your work daily is grunt work.”

The members of that line have adopted that “different mindset,” taking pride in the work they do without getting the same recognition as some of their peers. 

“We’re really proud of what’s going on,” said Hughes, the team’s starting center. “We’re just happy to be a part of it and be the driving force behind it, be the ones that kind of open up stuff for the running backs.”

The success North Hall’s offensive line has found this year is a culmination of hard work and team bonding, according to Bishop. 

The linemen, he says, are among the most tight-knit groups on the team. No matter what the Trojans are doing at practice, their a unit that is always together, pushing each other to be better and forming an identity that each tackle, guard and center prides himself on maintaining on Friday nights. 

“When we’re playing, we’re grit and grind,” Logan Jackson, who plays right tackle, said. “We’re really getting after it, getting dirty in the trenches as they say.”

The constant time spent in close proximity at practices has forged lasting friendships among each member of the Trojan offensive line.

According to Jackson, the unit is together as much off the field as it is on it.

“We’re like brothers,” Jackson added. “It’s just like a big family.”

The close relationships between each offensive lineman has led to better communication on the field, and increased offensive production has been a direct result of that according to Bishop. The Trojans are going to need that group meshing at a high level to have a chance against the second-ranked Saints Friday night. 

Cedar Grove (10-1) has been a dominant force all season long, pitching shutouts in four of its last six games to close out the regular season while scoring at least 30 in each of those contests. The team’s only loss on the season has come against McEachern — a one-score defeat on the road to a 7A squad ranked in the top 10 for its classification.

“Truth be known, they do just about everything well,” Bishop said of the Saints. “They’re big and strong up front. They play technique. They stunt well. Coverages are solid. And when it comes down to it, it’s a situation where you’ve got to at times just be more physical than they are.”

It’s going to be a tall order for a North Hall squad that will be at a size disadvantage at nearly every position. 

The physical battle is at its most important in the trenches. And for the offensive line that has taken the Trojans this far and led the team to its first ever road playoff win in program history, being intimidated by a larger and more highly ranked opponent is simply not an option.

“We’ve just got to block them like any other team really and just make sure we play physical,” Jackson said. “We’ve been working for it all season.”

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