North Hall High’s football program has intentionally steered away from the out-of-state passing camps and clinics that draw most of the headlines during the summer. Bare bones hard work on the practice field in the morning through the Trojans’ Men of Summer conditioning program, along with time in the weight room has been the staple of what continues to produce results for ninth-year coach Bob Christmas.
It’s hard to blame a coach for wanting to stick with the system already in place when it’s resulted in three Region 7-AAA titles, three quarterfinal playoff berths and an appearance in the state semifinals during the past five seasons. During that same time frame, the Trojans have averaged 10 wins per season, which ranks near the top of all Class AAA schools in the state.
So with the latest Men of Summer program now wrapped up, Christmas is starting to get an idea of where the 2009 Trojans stand heading into the start of practice.
“I feel like we have a good football team,” Christmas said. “This team reminds me of the 2006 team.
“They went 9-1 in the regular season, the only loss was by 1 point to Gainesville, and then won the region title and won two games in the playoffs.”
North Hall’s summer conditioning program allows for three weeks off when the previous school calendar year ended. Then the team opens up full-force four days a week for six weeks leading into practice. For players to make Men of Summer status they are required to make 21 of 24 practices. Christmas expects 95 percent of his players to hit that goal.
“We’ve had an outstanding summer,” Christmas said. “I can get a feel for a season based on the leadership and chemistry and the way they push each other over the summer.”
During the summer, North Hall took part in a six-team passing camp in Vidalia and a 16-team passing league at West Georgia, both camps that the Trojans typically attend. During these camps they defeated programs like Booker T. Washington, Class AAAA’s Rockdale County and Class AAAAA’s Grayson.
“Even though we’re not a throwing team, we’re going to see a lot of passing, so it helps our defense out a lot,” Christmas said.
The Trojans already took the covers off a new wrinkle to their Wing-T offense when they unveiled their shotgun formation during the spring game in May. North Hall will still be a run-heavy offense, but will also utilize passing when appropriate.
“We’re not going away from what we do best,” Christmas said. “This just makes it harder to defend us.
“We can hurt ‘em in the air too.”
Christmas is also excited to see the depth chart work itself out and starters emerge during summer practice. The Trojans graduated 12 starters from last season, but North Hall’s coach feels like that team was the youngest he’s fielded at the school with countless underclassmen getting ample playing time. North Hall returns seven starters on defense, three on offense this season.
North Hall’s biggest name this season is senior offensive tackle Daniel Blitch (6-foot-6, 330 pounds) who recently gave a verbal commitment to Wake Forest. Senior Robert Humphrey is also back at North Hall after playing at Gainesville during the 2008 season. At quarterback, Christmas has two solid options with senior Nathan Jones and sophomore Kanler Coker.
North Hall scrimmages Greater Atlanta Christian on Aug. 21 at The Brickyard. The Trojans open the season against Johnson on Aug. 28 at Billy Ellis Memorial.