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Exhibition football gives a glimpse at the upcoming high school season
North Hall football 2021
North Hall's defense, led by Jeremiah Telander (1) and Kevin Rochester (49) led the way on the tackle against Redan on Aug. 6 in Gainesville. Photo by Bill Murphy

There’s no substitute for live action in football. 

And for players and coaches, alike, there’s no better feeling than seeing another team on the opposite sideline. 

After a grueling preseason, the actual scrimmages are finally here for schools in Hall County. 

It was a light schedule Friday night. 

The only preseason game was North Hall hosting Redan at Lynn Cottrell Stadium. The Trojans are in a bit of a unique situation, having passed on the chance of the spring game, in favor of two preseason games in August. 

Next week, the Trojans will have another tune-up game at Flowery Branch. 

North Hall coach David Bishop made his decision based on the fact that so many key returning players were active last spring with other sports, such as senior quarterback Bradford Pureyear, the starting left fielder for the Class 3A baseball state champions, and junior linebacker/tight end Jeremiah Telander (who already holds several Division-I football scholarship offers), who was a state placer in the high jump at the track and field state meet in 2021. 

When it comes scrimmage game time, it isn’t just for fun.

Coaches are making final decisions with their starting lineup for the fall, and evaluating possible role players at different positions. 

“In my mind, I don’t treat it like we’re playing a game, even though we want to be successful,” Bishop said Friday, while getting gear and attire in place before the flood of activity really began. “We’re trying to play a lot of kids and see how they do against live competition.”

Coaching a veteran squad, too, Gainesville’s Heath Webb shared the same mindset. 

The Red Elephants had a controlled intrasquad scrimmage at Bruce Miller Field Friday afternoon to gear up for the real preseason game at Winder-Barrow next Thursday. 

“The grind of the preseason is hard,” Webb said. “The kids are just excited about seeing a different opponent.”

Gainesville has a pretty solid grounding with its lineup, led by sophomore quarterback Baxter Wright, junior running back Naim Cheeks, the addition of Dre Raven at wide receiver, and Elijah Ruiz and Khaliq Maddox on the offensive and defensive line, respectively. 

“With a veteran squad, there’s more excitement than anxiety,” Webb said.

Webb said that his exhibition game-day drill is to evaluate everything from pregame warmups to the final whistle. 

“Then we see if we need to tweak anything,” Webb said.

Webb is one of many fourth-year head coaches in Hall County, so familiarity with their respective programs is already firmly in place. 

Also in Year 4 coaching in Hall County are Cherokee Bluff’s Tommy Jones (who is fielding the school’s first four-year senior program) and West Hall’s Krofton Montgomery. 

In two weeks, The Times will produce its annual Football Preview Edition. 

For all 11 schools in Hall County, you’ll get a preview story, photos, schedule and roster. 

Preseason schedule

Thursday, Aug. 12

Gainesville at Winder-Barrow, 7 p.m.

West Hall at Pickens, 7 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 13

Riverside Military vs. East Hall, 7:30 p.m.

North Hall at Flowery Branch, 7:30 p.m.

Lakeview Academy vs. Lumpkin County, 7:30 p.m.

Cherokee Bluff at Jackson County, 7:30 p.m.

Johnson vs. Chestatee, 7:30 p.m.

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