The reaction of North Hall's football faithful fit the mood on Friday night after the Trojans qualified for the state semifinals for the first time in school history with a 12-10 win against Perry at The Brickyard.
The majority of the Trojans' fans poured onto the field to celebrate with the players and coaches as they began thinking about playing at the Georgia Dome, and hopefully a chance down the road for a state title game.
North Hall's players were equally excited about their accomplishment, but at the same time tried to keep from celebrating prematurely. The Trojans (13-0) have their eyes locked on winning the state championship.
"We made history here tonight," Trojans senior lineman Alex Tasich said. "But it doesn't stop here. "We have two more games to win."
North Hall's opponent in the semifinals is Cairo (12-1), after the Syrupmakers defeated Carver-Atlanta 48-6 on Friday. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. next Saturday.
"This was a great win for our team," North Hall coach Bob Christmas said. "Our defense continued to play great all night."
North Hall's first win in the quarterfinals wasn't easy. In fact, it put the Trojans in some unfamiliar territory. They trailed for the first time all season after Perry placekicker Bill Freeman booted a 28-yard field goal in the first quarter to give the Panthers an early 3-0 lead.
And it was certainly the first nail-biter for the Trojans all season.
Trailing 12-10 with 4:10 left to play, the Panthers methodically moved the ball steadily down the field. A mix of runs from Perry senior quarterback Casey Hayward and passes to his stable of receivers put the Panthers on the Trojans' 10 with :10 left to play.
Perry coach Andy Scott initially decided to line up and attempt a game-winning field goal, until North Hall coach Bob Christmas called a timeout to try to "ice the kicker."
The Panthers then brought Hayward back on the field to go for the game-winning touchdown, until North Hall called its final timeout. The Panthers then decided to go back with their original plan.
With the game hanging on the left leg of Freeman, an overflow crowd on both sides raised the decibel level dramatically inside The Brickyard. Trojans senior Chase Hulsey even pumped up the crowd screaming into a cheerleader's megaphone to keep the fans on their feet.
And as soon as the ball came off the foot of Freeman sailing low and wide right, North Hall could let out a sigh of relief. Its season wouldn't end with another heartbreaking defeat in the third round of the playoffs.
"It feels great to know we're going to be playing in the Dome," North Hall quarterback Fabian Jackson said. "Before that kick we were all praying on the sideline."
"We all held hands on the sideline and prayed before that kick," Trojans senior Bobby Epps said.North Hall's win was due in large part to a great defensive effort after the Trojans had trouble moving the ball consistently on offense.
North Hall sophomore linebacker Robert Humphrey stole the show with two stellar interceptions. Humphrey's first interception in the Trojans' own end zone with only seconds left in the first half. His second interception, early in the third quarter, put the clamps on another promising Perry drive.
For the second consecutive week, North Hall senior Hunter Wolf came away with a fumble recovery on the first play of the second half.
Despite the turnovers, the Panthers still managed to rack up yardage all night with 416 yards on offense. But they were largely ineffective deep in North Hall territory.
Perry traveled inside North Hall's 5-yard line three times in the opening half, but only managed to come away with points off of Freeman's field goal.
North Hall sophomore linebacker Thomas Sprague, a sophomore, led the Trojans defense with 13 tackles and Jackson added nine.
The Trojans never found an answer to stop Perry's leading running backs Jacorey Lane (133 yards) and Hayward (109). But a couple of key offensive plays by North Hall's offense helped nullify the Panthers' effectiveness running the ball in such a low-scoring contest.
North Hall senior Dylon Wolf scored on a 50-yard criss-cross handoff between his identical twin brother Hunter Wolf to take a 6-3 lead with 3:44 remaining in the opening quarter. Hunter Wolf also managed to find the end zone on a 6-yard run with 5:49 remaining to give the Trojans a 12-3 lead going into halftime.
Epps led North Hall with 16 carries for 131 yards. Hunter Wolf finished with 102 yards.
"Perry's defense was tough, because every time they came out they lined up in a different front," Christmas said.
Perry wide receiver Trey Smith scored on a 16-yard pass from Hayward with 7:11 remaining in the game to make the final score. Smith led the Panthers' receivers with four catches for 54 yards.
Perry's season is now complete.
"Our plan is still to win state," Epps said. "We plan on playing that 15th game."