The region football schedule begins Friday for five programs in Hall County.
No game looks as evenly balanced as North Hall (2-2) at West Hall (2-1), which will be played on the new synthetic surface field at Spartans Stadium.
The winner will be right in the thick of the race to challenge defending-region champion Cherokee Bluff (4-0) in Region 7-3A, while the loser will still have every opportunity to make the postseason, but a more difficult path to try and earn a home playoff game in November.
In back-to-back seasons, the Trojans have finished region runner-up and won a first round postseason game in Gainesville.
Meanwhile, the Spartans are looking to earn some traction toward its first playoff berth since 2017.
“We know West Hall has some size and talent,” North Hall coach David Bishop said. “We know they were very confident coming into the season and this is an opportunity to prove who they are.”
The most recent outing for both North Hall and West Hall was against Chestatee, with very different results.
The Trojans won 23-21 against the War Eagles on a thrilling last-second, 43-yard field goal from senior Luke Brown, just three days ago.
A week prior, West Hall lost to Chestatee 42-7, then had a bye on Sept. 17.
And a week to regroup might be just what the Spartans needed to get a clear mind with all six games on the region schedule still to come.
West Hall coach Krofton Montgomery is hoping his squad will show resiliency against a Trojans program that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.
“North Hall is going to do what North Hall does,” Montgomery said. “They’re going to run the rock and we have to keep them from making the big plays.”
At North Hall, Bishop is hoping his season is going to take a similar trajectory as it did in 2020.
After a slow start, the Trojans went 5-1 in region play last season.
This season, North Hall has repeated non-region losses against Stephens County and Hart County.
However, none of those losses matter once region play gets underway.
After four blowout non-region victories, Cherokee Bluff appears to be a clear favorite to again take the No. 1 spot in 7-3A.
However, the coveted No. 2 spot is equally important.
Finishing region runner-up also comes with a guaranteed home playoff contest.
In Week 5, North Hall got back in the win column, thanks to a pair of long first-quarter touchdown runs from quarterback Bradford Puryear and Brown’s walk-off field goal.
With the game on the line, Bishop felt assured his kicker would be good, if they could get the ball inside the 35.
After a five-yard penalty pushed it back to a 43-yard attempt, the Trojans’ coach didn’t waver in his strategy, needing only 1 yard for the first down.
“I have a lot of confidence in Luke, our snapper and our holder,” Bishop said. “It all came together.”
Despite the loss to Chestatee, West Hall has a couple wins on the ledger, most notably a 48-21 decision against East Hall on Aug. 27.
The Spartans’ offense is led by bruising running back Tilil Blackwell, who has 42 carries for 214 yards and four touchdowns in 2021.
Montgomery said they’re last outing in Week 4 was one where everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
West Hall’s coach said they had eight dropped passes, blown coverages in the secondary and were hampered by too many penalties.
“Against North Hall, we have to match their physicality,” Montgomery said. “You know what you’re getting against North Hall. Have to have good eye discipline and tackle well.”