I probably saw the most exciting high school football game of my life last Friday night at The Brickyard.
I know the weather limited the crowd some, but I wish more people could have been there to see this one play out in person.
North Hall’s victory over Hart County in the first round of the state playoffs fell in the category of games this sports writer would have paid money to see in person.
The Trojans (8-3) overcame Hart County’s imposing physical stature and a last-second attempt at a game-winning field goal by the Bulldogs, that sailed left of the upright. North Hall also came up clutch with its own field goal to take the lead in the final minutes thanks to senior Jake Dunn’s strong right leg.
The Trojans may bask in the underdog role.
North Hall’s win against Hart County validated once again the premium its program places on physical conditioning.
The Trojans bank on the fact that if they can stay close for three quarters, they can wear a bigger opponent down in the fourth quarter. This win fits into the same category of their wins against Sandy Creek and Perry from the 2007 postseason.
They’ll get another chance to try to work that formula for success this week in the second round against Dunwoody (11-0).
But North Hall’s first round win also has a positive impact on the rest of Region 7-AAA.
For the first time since the formation of the modern Region 7-AAA in 2002, three Hall County football teams are advancing to the second round of the GHSA state playoffs. Everyone already knew that fourth-ranked Gainesville (11-0) was going to win its first round game. Flowery Branch (9-2) was probably a favorite to win on the road against a struggling Stephens County.
But North Hall’s win was probably more of an upset, despite playing at the friendly confines of The Brickyard.
With three Hall County teams left in the field of 16 in Class AAA, Region 7-AAA has clearly validated its strong regular season.
Looking down the road, I see Region 7-AAA having some staying power in the playoffs. It’s certainly possible that this Hall County-dominated region could send two teams to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2005, when Gainesville and Flowery Branch both made the third round.
As a result, I can sense the reputation of Region 7-AAA, as a whole, has been taken more seriously in football. Every year, at least one team from this region looks to be really solid, but now we have three really good football teams right in our own backyard.
Now I’m not going to go out on a limb and say any of our Hall County teams have a shot at playing for the state title.
Gainesville is sitting on the same side of the bracket as Class AAA’s top-ranked Cairo (10-0), which has only allowed 50 points all season. The Red Elephants can ask North Hall about how good those guys are.
North Hall and Flowery Branch are sitting on the same side of the bracket as No. 2-ranked Baldwin (11-0) and Dunwoody.
Still, it’s fun to watch Hall County teams have success in the playoffs.