Watching North Hall’s football team play this season has me intrigued about their playoff possibilities. I saw the Region 7-AAA Trojans (10-0) look completely consistent in their absolute domination in wins against Johnson, Pickens, Gainesville, Flowery Branch and Lumpkin County.
And from the looks of things, North Hall made it through the 10-game regular season injury-free and playing better than ever heading into the playoff opener Friday night against McNair at the Brickyard.
But now that the playoffs are here, it isn’t all about skill. It takes a little bit of luck, too. And it looks like the Trojans were dealt as good of a hand as possible when the playoff brackets came out last Saturday.
I feel like North Hall’s road to play in the Georgia Dome is as favorable as can be expected. The Trojans are in a quadrant of the AAA playoff bracket without having to think about playing Stephens County, Carver-Columbus, Carrollton or Carver-Atlanta any sooner than the semifinals.
The other No. 1 seed in North Hall’s quarter of the playoff bracket is Region 3-AAA champion Burke County (8-2). In case you didn’t know, Burke County is in Waynesboro, which is the "Bird Dog Capital of the World," and it also has a really big golf cart distributor.
It seems like 4,000 golf carts on the side of the highway would just be asking for trouble?
Oh yeah, I’ll save the useless trivia for the people who have to work with me.
Burke County’s only losses in the regular season were to a pair of solid AA south Georgia schools: Jefferson County and Screven County.
Is that impressive? Minimally.
The Bears are coached by one of Georgia’s best kept secrets outside of the Augusta area, Eric Parker. He led Augusta’s Lucy C. Laney High to the playoffs each of the past five seasons, and two trips to the Georgia Dome (2002 and 2004). At Laney, he never had the best talent, but always found a way to maximize their potential. However, maximizing your teams’ potential doesn’t necessarily equate to beating North Hall.
Burke County’s team this season is comparable to Parker’s teams at Laney in the past without a list of superstars, except for defensive end and soon-to-be Georgia Bulldog Cornelius Washington. But the fact that the Bears play in a weak region leads me to believe that the Trojans shouldn’t have any trouble getting past Burke County if needed.
So who is going to be North Hall’s biggest challenge?
That would be the No. 2 seed and Region 4-AAA runner-up Perry Panthers (7-3). I think the Panthers played in one of the toughest, if not the toughest, region in AAA this season. After seeing highlights of Perry this season, it’s clear the Panthers feed off of their running game, but that falls right into North Hall’s strength with stopping the run.
To Perry’s credit, the Panthers held their own with wins against region rivals Northeast, West Laurens and Jackson (twice). Their signature win this season was a 20-point victory against Peach County.
But if North Hall played Perry, it would be at the Brickyard, where the Trojans should win.
And LaGrange (8-2) is also on North Hall’s side of the bracket. But entering the playoffs with a No. 3 seed, after taking back-to-back loses on the chin from Carver-Columbus and Shaw, will leave the Grangers struggling to get past the first round against Perry.
Hart County (8-1-1) is North Hall’s probable pairing for the second round.
The Bulldogs look vulnerable after losing to Region 8-AAA champions Stephens County two weeks ago, and only beating Jackson County 20-0 last week. Hart County didn’t have any impressive victories this season in a top-heavy region, unless you count a draw with Class AAAA Clarke Central in the season opener a moral victory.
The other teams on North Hall’s quarter of the bracket are Worth County (5-5) and Sandy Creek (6-4).
Yes, I do believe North Hall looks mighty good in the first three rounds of the playoffs.