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Christmas eager for Trojans to rebound in '12
North Hall football coach Bob Christmas encourages his players as they lift weights in the school’s weight room Tuesday morning. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Bob Christmas is heading into his 38th year of coaching football and his 12th as the head coach at North Hall High.
Since coming to North Hall, he has won 86 games, including 13 in a run to the state semifinals in 2007.

While the past two seasons have been disappointing in terms of what has come to be expected for the Trojans, Christmas is excited by the direction his current team is heading.

He spoke on Wednesday with The Times about the team’s summer program as well as its prospects in 2012.

Question: It’s the second half of July already, Coach. Hard to believe we’re on the back side of July already?

Answer: This summer has flown by. Of course, with us starting on our preseason stuff on July 25 — that’s next Wednesday already. It’s hard to believe.

Q: How much does the summer program ramp up as we get closer to August for you guys?

A: The way I’m reading the new GHSA policy is that we’re actually going to have to back off a little bit from what we’ve been doing. We’ve been doing an hour of weight training, an hour of speed and agility, and then we do football for an hour. The GHSA says that we can only do two hours starting on July 25, and the weight room counts for one of those hours. I’m not sure I understand it, but it’s what we’re going to do.

Q: Everything going well with the summer program, you think?

A: I think it’s been going great. We’ve got a really hard-working group this year. They seem to thrive on working hard. And interestingly, that’s all the way down to our ninth graders. It’s probably one of the best groups of ninth graders as far as their work ethic that we’ve ever had. Our senior class isn’t a large class in numbers. We’ve got 15 seniors, but they’re all contributors.

Almost every one of them has been in the program since middle school, so they understand our expectations. It’s just really been nice to see them take on this leadership role and see the desire they have.

Q: It’s been a couple of down years for North Hall. What do you think was different over the past two seasons than some of the others?

A: I’ve tried to analyze that myself, and I don’t know if I’ve got some real answers other than that I’ve seen this happen. Every program goes through something like this in the life of its program. North Hall didn’t used to have a lot of success until recently, and then we had a ton of success. And I don’t know if maybe we got a little complacent as coaches and players and a community. Maybe we felt like it was just supposed to happen and we didn’t work as hard to stay there as we did to get there. Sometimes you feel like you’re doing all the right things, but there still isn’t that same spirit that you had when you were trying to get there.

The other thing is that our competition has been pretty stiff and we lost some really close games early on in the season. Like opening up with Jefferson, Gainesville and St. Pius last year. Those are tough teams to face early. You look at those types of things and try to analyze them. I don’t know if I’ve got all the answers, but I do think this group is doing everything they can to get back on top.

Q: It’s a new region with new challenges, but it appears to be open for a lot of teams to compete for you guys. One thing, though, is that there’s a big void left by Imani Cross in the backfield. What’s the plan to try to fill his shoes?

A: There’s a reason he’s at the University of Nebraska. He was a big, talented back who had a lot of skills. He was a pleasure to coach. I don’t know that you replace an Imani, but here’s what we do have: I think we’ve got 8-10 really good high school running backs. We have a good mix in age, none of them huge in size, but they’ve got good strength and good quickness.

Q: Your son, Kevin, is a senior on this year’s team, and he’s the fourth out of four sons that you’ve coached. You’ve been coaching for awhile now. Has there been any thought that, maybe with him graduating, this would be a good time to finish up? Or do you have a lot of coaching left in you?

A: I’m starting my 38th year, and I’m really excited about this year. You know, as long as it’s a passion for me, there’s no need to stop doing something and wish I was still doing it. I’ve learned a lot and it’s gone by in a hurry.

Q: Alright, coach quick prediction for me: Where does North Hall finish its season this year?

A: You know coaches won’t give predictions.

Q: I know, Coach, but I had to try.

A: Our philosophy is that if you stay focused on being the best you can be, that’s something you can control. You really can’t control how good the other team is. But I’m really excited about our kids. I don’t know a lot about some of the schools we’ll play, but I can assure you that we’re going to go into every game believing we can win. If things start off well, there’s no telling what can happen.

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