DAHLONEGA - The North Hall High football team can now start looking forward to its first playoff opponent next week at the Brickyard, capping off their regular season with a 35-17 win against Lumpkin County on Friday.
Despite a close score until the second half, the Trojans (7-3, 6-0 Region 7A-AAA) controlled the game with their stellar defense, allowing less than 200 yards of total offense and only 10 offensive points. The defense forced two fumbles in the first half and an interception near the end of the game.
The defense was overshadowed, though, by the outstanding play of Trojan quarterback Blayne Gilmer and wide receiver Graham Duncan. Gilmer was 13-of-24 for 207 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were thrown to Duncan who finished with 129 yards on six catches.
The first touchdown pass was a 5-yard reception to cap off North Hall's first drive of the game. The second was a 42 yard catch by Duncan early in the second quarter.
Despite two early Trojan touchdowns, Lumpkin County (4-6, 2-4) was still in the game with three points on the board from Ben Ayres' 33-yard field.
But a 77-yard scamper up the middle by North Hall's Matt Christmas for a touchdown gave the Trojans the momentum for a commanding lead early in the third quarter. Duncan's third touchdown catch came later in the third with a 35-yard reception.
Lumpkin County began a comeback attempt in the fourth quarter with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Chris Guthrie to Ian McIntosh, but the Indians' hopes were dashed when North Hall's Avery Nix scored a three-yard rushing touchdown with five minutes remaining.
Lumpkin County's final tally came late in the fourth quarter on a fumble recovery by Eric Epperson.
Lumpkin County's two-quarterback strategy struggled to click as Guthrie and Daniel Abercrombie went a combined 10-for-40 with only 99 yards.
North Hall plays host to Hart County next Friday in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs. Being a senior, Duncan knows what to expect.
"We have scrimmaged Hart County a few times in the past," Duncan said. "We feel that they are a very beatable team."
Lumpkin County's season is now complete.