North Hall at Creekview
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Grizzlies Stadium, Canton
Coaches: North Hall, Bob Christmas; Creekview, Al Morrell
Records: North Hall (1-2); Creekview (3-0)
Key players: North Hall, QB/DB Nathan Jones (5-11, 185, Sr.), OL/DL Daniel Blitch (6-5, 320, Sr.), RB/LB Peyton Wilhoite (6-0, 220, Sr.). Creekview, LB Ryan Holmes (5-10, 200, Sr.), DE Morgan Wright (6-4, 225, Sr.), RB Hunter Livingston (5-9, 190, Sr.).
Prediction: CREEKVIEW. The Grizzlies will be a force to reckon with this season in the North side of the subregion.
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If one was to make the argument that North Hall’s football team has played the toughest schedule in the state to this point in the season, it probably wouldn’t be met with too much debate.
Both of the Trojans’ (1-2) losses have been to teams ranked No. 1 in the state (Buford and Gainesville) at the time of their meeting.
“I’ve told our kids that anyone else that played the same schedule as us would have the same record,” North Hall coach Bob Christmas said. “I still think we’re going to have a very good season. I have a lot of confidence in our team.”
“Yeah, they’ve lost two games, but look at who they’ve played,” Creekview coach Al Morrell said.
That’s not to say that any coach wants to lose a game. Everyone at North Hall would have graciously accepted a win against Buford (2-1, 0-1 Region 6-AA) and Class AAA’s top-ranked Gainesville (4-0).
However, the hunt for playoff contention starts tonight with the North subregion opener against No. 7 Creekview (3-0) in Canton. Six of the final seven games in the regular season will be subregion matchups and the determining factor for which teams earn the two playoff seeds out of Region 7A-AAA.
This seems to be the time of the year when the Trojans shine. North Hall has won all 16 subregion games since Region 7-AAA split for the 2006 season. That has translated to subregion titles and home field advantage to start the playoffs each of the past three seasons.
But don’t expect the North Hall players to have an entitlement mentality based on past accomplishments. The Trojans know with such parity in the subregion this season that they’ll have to go out and earn each and every win.
“It’s good to try and live up to that legacy,” North Hall senior lineman Nathan Hewell said. “But at the same time, we can’t dwell on the past.”
This year’s game between North Hall and Creekview will have long-term implications for the postseason. With the head-to-head victory last season, the Trojans carried the No. 2 seed into the playoffs, while the Grizzlies went in as No. 4. That’s the difference between playing at home to open the playoffs and going on the road.
“This year’s game is going to have huge implications,” Morrell said. “I believe the winner will be in the driver’s seat for the subregion.”
At the same time, the Trojans want to get back on the winning track after losing to the Wolves and Red Elephants, an identical scenario to last season, from which North Hall went on to win six of seven games (only loss to Flowery Branch) to close out the regular season.
“I’ve reminded them of that fact and how we won six of the last seven to finish the regular season last year,” Christmas said. “I think we have a chance to win the rest of our games in the regular season and finish 8-2.”
“I’m really excited about this game against Creekview to show that we can compete,” North Hall senior Darian Roman said. “We know that Creekview has a very good team, so we just have to stay focused.”
As for the Grizzlies, their biggest statement in the crossover part of the schedule was a 38-35 win against Flowery Branch on Sept. 11. However, Morrell doesn’t want to leave any room for misinterpretation that Creekview is resting its hat on a win against a state finalist from last season.
The Grizzlies’ coach knows that games against North Hall, White County, Lumpkin County and Chestatee are what matter over the long haul.
Both North Hall and Creekview have been impacted by injuries heading into tonight’s game. The Trojans will be holding out junior running back/linebacker Mack VanGorder stemming from a broken collarbone from the season opener against Johnson.
Creekview will likely be playing without starting running back Eric Smith after he broke his arm in last week’s game against West Forsyth.