After months of speculation, anticipation and preparation, the high school football season has finally arrived. Opening night in Hall County is headlined by the 17th meeting between the Chestatee War Eagles and North Hall Trojans, the first game to be played on the newly-renovated Lynn Cottrell Field at the Brickyard.
The teams have played every year since 2002, and it’s been a largely one-sided rivalry. North Hall has won all but two of the matchups.
But while Trojan dominance has characterized the two teams’ relationship with one another to this point, it was the War Eagles who took bragging rights most recently. Last season, Chestatee head coach Shaun Conley’s group ended an 11-game losing streak against the Trojans with a 42-12 victory in the first week of 2017.
Conley, who has is 1-1 against North Hall, since taking over two seasons ago, said he doesn’t approach the yearly matchup against the Trojans any differently than a normal game, despite the proximity between the two schools.
“We treat this one just like we do all the rest of them,” Conley said. “It’s the most important game to us because it’s the very next game.”
North Hall head coach David Bishop said he has similar feelings on the annual contest between the two schools. Bishop conceded that a win over Chestatee would be meaningful for the students and the community, but added that he personally does his best to avoid getting caught up in any sort of rivalry aspect between the teams.
Not even a blowout loss last season against the War Eagles was enough to get Bishop truly emotional about the game.
“I try to get past all that stuff and focus just on what we do,” he said. “I know that sounds crazy. But it’s easy to get sidetracked in it and I try not to.”
As for the contest itself, Conley said his team’s preparation and organization will be key in coming away with a victory. Conley complimented the Trojans’ discipline and said his team will have to take advantage of any mistakes North Hall makes in order to win the game.
“For us to beat them, we can’t make mistakes,” he said. “We have to take advantage of any miscues that they may have.”
Bishop said his team will need to focus on a good defensive performance against the War Eagles, specifically focusing on stopping dual-threat quarterback Christian Charles, who Bishop referred to as “a talented young man.”
Further, Bishop emphasized the importance of good tackling form, saying that if the Trojans “make sure that we tackle and wrap up and take care of our assignments,” his team should emerge victorious.
With the game coming in the first week of the season, the coaches talked about wanting to win to get the season off to a positive start. Still, both Conley and Bishop were insistent that the first game of the year would not define the entire season.
It’s a lesson both coaches learned in 2017.
Chestatee started the year out 4-2 before going 0-4 in region games and missing out on the playoffs. Conversely, North Hall lost its first four games in a row, but a 4-2 region record was enough to earn the Trojans a playoff spot.
“It is nice to get that first win, but it can be deceptive at times, too,” Bishop said.