The most impressive football turnaround in all of Northeast Georgia this season has to belong to North Hall.
After stumbling to an 0-3 start in non-region play, the Trojans (4-3, 3-0 Region 7-3A) are one win away from securing a playoff berth for the sixth consecutive season.
“It makes me feel proud of these kids,” North Hall coach David Bishop said. “We have a process in place and I know how hard they work every day in practice.”
Up next, the Trojans visit Gilmer (3-3, 1-2) on Friday in Ellijay.
Even though three region wins would likely be enough to get into the playoffs, when it’s all said and done, another victory will certainly put North Hall over the top with four playoff spots on the line in a seven-team region.
In 2020, Bishop has also had to count on his players to be resilient with coronavirus restrictions and players not able to play week to week due to contact-tracing quarantines.
It doesn’t get any easier after Friday with No. 10 Cherokee Bluff and Dawson County (both unbeaten in region play) left before the playoffs begin Nov. 27.
North Hall’s seventh-year head coach said that players have tapped into their culture, which dates back many years, to get back on track this year.
“The biggest thing is sticking to what we believe works,” Bishop added.
However, Bishop feels good with the pieces he has in place and some tweaks to personnel, he said the casual observer wouldn’t even notice.
Sticking with its bread-and-butter attack, North Hall is led with a talented running attack. Senior Clark Howell has 1,027 yards on the ground, while Kevin Rochester has picked up almost 600 yards and eight touchdowns.
Gilmer is also a run-first program, led by senior Kobe Stonecipher, who has 777 yards but is coming off a season-low, 40-yard night on Oct. 23 against Dawson County.
Even though the current season started with three-straight losses, Bishop said the 34-0 loss to Stephens County in Week 2 was particularly startling. Simply put: he said everything went wrong that night in Toccoa.
“We had our come-to-Jesus meeting after the Stephens County game,” Bishop said. “In my 20 years here at North Hall, that was probably the worst we’ve played.”
North Hall’s coach said the corrections were made by players. In the meeting room, he said players were allowed to speak up and voice their opinions about mistakes on the field.
Letting players weigh in on errors seemed to have worked for Bishop. The following week, North Hall lost to Hart County, 55-22, but he pointed out the first two offensive drives resulted in points.
Now, the Trojans seem to have the pieces in place for making the postseason.
Bishop credits players with mental fortitude for being able to correct mistakes and maximize potential.
“When things aren’t working, some coaches try to reinvent the wheel,” Bishop said. “We just got back to the fundamentals.”