Three games into last year’s high school football season, North Hall was reeling after losing its first three contests by a combined 75 points. This year is an entirely different story.
Entering a road matchup against White County tonight, the Trojans are 3-0 coming out of their bye week. And while the 2017 edition of head coach David Bishop’s squad did turn things around with a 4-2 region mark and a playoff berth, Bishop said he much prefers the spot his team is in now as opposed to last year.
“Obviously, at 3-0 it’s always nice to be there,” he said.
Bishop was quick to add that there’s no room for complacency, even when the team seems to be firing on all cylinders. Staying focused will be key for the Trojans in their road contest against the Warriors.
“We don’t ever want to be in a situation where we’re happy where we’re at,” Bishop said. “That’s kind of been our focus.
You don’t have to go back far to pick up on some of the reasoning for Bishop’s worries despite his team’s hot start. In 2016, North Hall also began the year with three straight wins coming into an away game against White Hall. The Trojans were even ranked No. 10 in the state among Class 3A schools.
But an off performance in a 24-23 loss at the hand of the Warriors killed the team’s momentum. Bishop’s squad went on to split wins in its final six games and was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
Senior running back Daniel Jackson said that’s an outcome he’s hoping not to repeat.
“We can’t get cocky or anything,” he said. “We’ve got to just keep doing what we’re doing.”
White County has had North Hall’s number ever since Bishop’s group moved down from 4A to 3A back in 2016, as the Warriors have beaten the Trojans the last two seasons. But this year, the road team has a few added advantages.
For one, North Hall is still riding the high of taking out 7A Cherokee in its last game two weeks ago.
“3A teams should not beat 7A teams in everybody’s mind,” Bishop said of the win. “So I think it definitely gives us an emotional advantage going into other games.”
The Trojans have also had two weeks to get ready for the game, with the bye week providing plenty of extra time for preparation.
North Hall quarterback David Seavey said that despite not having a game last Friday, the team has not decreased any intensity at practice in the two-week buildup.
“We’ve still been having physical practices and stuff like that, pushing the tempo,” Seavey said. “This bye week we’ve recovered, but it’s still been like a game week.”
Those high tempo practices have been critical elements to the Trojan game plan coming into tonight’s contest. After all, finding a way to draw up and maintain a high level of energy is going to be crucial to the Trojans’ success tonight, as it always is when they go on the road against White County.
The Warriors’ one-sided stadium keeps the away team’s fans far from the action, making it difficult for the visitors to draw any energy from traveling spectators. Bishop said sleepy starts have become a trend when his team travels to Cleveland.
“Even when we’ve had over the top teams in the years past, we’ve seemed to always play at a lull there,” Bishop said. “So I think the number one thing is for our kids to come out and be loose and have fun from kickoff.”
When asked what the biggest key to winning the game against White Hall will be, Bishop, Seavy and Jackson were split.
Bishop maintained a high energy attack is the most necessary element to a positive result, Seavy said it would all come down to execution and Jackson believes the contest will be won by the team that brings the most physicality to the field.
All three were willing to agree that the Warriors are not a team to be slept on.
“We know it’s going to be a physical game, and we know we can’t take them lightly,” Jackson said. “So we’re going to have to bring it from the beginning, and we’re going to have to play a complete game to make sure we can finish it.”