Since the school opened in 1957, North Hall High has only seen four 5-0 starts to a season for its football program. David Bishop can proudly say he has been a part of each.
Yet this will be the first time Bishop has led the Trojans to a 5-0 start as their head coach, last leading North Hall to the unbeaten mark as Bob Christmas’ assistant in 2013.
“It’s kind of fun, kind of neat. It’s not like it’s something normal here,” said Bishop, in his 18th year overall at North Hall, and fifth season as head coach.
When asked how North Hall (5-0, 1-0 Region 7-3A) managed to get to this point, Bishop points back to his players, who continue to show belief in what the coaching staff preaches. As a result, the bulk of the same core that pulled itself out of an 0-4 hole by winning four of its last six games to reach the state playoffs last year has now stormed through the first six weeks of the season.
“We tell them, ‘We’ve got a path and process, and if you guys stick to it, you’ll see some great strides in improvement,’ and I think you saw that last year,” Bishop said.
Those same sophomores thrown into the mix last year are now seasoned veterans. Couple that with the 10 seniors — some of them who have been starting since they were sophomores — and North Hall now fields one of the more experienced programs in the area, with an opportunity to build on an undefeated season.
Their biggest test yet will enter the battlegrounds of the Brickyard in Week 7, when North Hall clashes with Class 3A powerhouse Greater Atlanta Christian (3-2, 1-0) for a region game Friday night.
Bishop doesn’t see much difference, nor many weaknesses, in a GAC team that houses a handful of highly-touted Division I prospects. That includes five-star recruit Myles Hinton (No. 1 offensive tackle for 2020 class), senior tight end Jeffrey Blake (Vanderbilt commit) and senior defensive end Chris Hinton (No. 15 overall prospect for 2019), a Michigan pledge that headlines a defensive line alongside Elijah Pryor and Roland Witherspoon.
“If I started to list them, I might as well go ahead and list all 22,” Bishop said of GAC. “Everyone pays attention to the stars, but there’s a lot of really good football players that don’t get spoken about at GAC.”
The fifth-ranked Spartans, who have won the last two meetings by a combined 78 points against North Hall, steam rolled East Hall in their region opener last week, 51-20. They continue to be a threat in the spread, scoring 40-or-more points in their last two wins behind starting quarterback Josh Rose (746 yards, seven touchdowns, two interceptions), who has racked up the yardage with his arm and legs (312 rushing yards, five TD). Wideouts Ty James (21 catches, 459 yards, five TD) and Jake Floyd (27 catches, 378 yards, four TD) continue to be favored targets of Rose in the passing game.
“They have guys that can makes plays, and they keep you on your toes,” said senior Daniel Jackson, a running back and safety for the Trojans. “It’s just gonna be another game of us playing all four quarters, be as physical as we can and just fly around the ball.”
It’s a simple approach, yes. But North Hall has executed that formula to a T for the first six weeks. In three of the five games played this season, it was in the second half, Bishop said, when his players shined the most. It manifested in a 28-point second-half surge against Jackson County, followed by a fourth-quarter rally against 7A Cherokee.
And in a physical non-region victory over 4A White County in Cleveland two weeks prior, the Trojans erased a 12-point halftime deficit with a vigorous 20-point third quarter before coming through with a stunning fourth-quarter drive sealed with a Jackson touchdown run.
“When you put it all together, our kids are fighting for four quarters when they need to, and that’s kind of awesome to me, kind of special,” Bishop said.
The Trojans’ Wing-T is averaging 42 points a contest behind a committee-run backfield fronted by Jackson, who has far surpassed his 2017 total with 738 all-purpose yards and 11 total scores. Starting quarterback David Seavey has even thrown for a pair of touchdowns, both to Jackson, to complement a run game that has accrued 1,545 yards (8.3 yards a carry) and 24 touchdowns between 11 ball carriers.
Defensively, the Trojans are playing sound with a combined 16 stops for a loss, four sacks and four interceptions.
But the biggest key according to Bishop will be North Hall’s ability to come out fast and show an ability to weather the storm against GAC. Jackson and Bishop both agreed that playing in front of their home crowd should at least provide a big boost.
No matter what, Bishop never counts his kids out.
“They’ve proven that it doesn’t matter what the game looks like. They’re gonna keep on fighting,” Bishop said. “When you do that, you never know what’s gonna happen.”