The North Hall High football team was facing two particular problems Friday night. It found an answer to the most important one of the two.
The Trojans (9-2) had to find a way to get in the end zone after only one first-half touchdown, as well as find a way to stop Ringgold running back Martrez Eastland.
While there wasn’t necessarily an answer to stopping Eastland, Ringgold’s (8-3) do-it-all back, the Trojans did score four touchdowns in the second half and won 39-21 in the first-round playoff game at The Brickyard.
"Our kids just simply turned it up in the second half," North Hall coach Bob Christmas said.
With the win, the Trojans await a trip to St. Pius, a 34-0 win over Franklin County, in the second round next Friday in Atlanta.
This is the fourth consecutive year for North Hall to win a first-round home playoff game and advance to the second round.
North Hall ground it out to take a 17-14 lead behind a 4-yard touchdown run by Peyton Wilhoite with 4:43 to play in the third quarter. Wilhoite, a senior, finished as the team’s leading rusher with 30 carries for 181 yards.
"Peyton unleashed a beast out there tonight," said North Hall senior quarterback Nathan Jones, who had an interception from his safety position late in the fourth quarter to clinch the victory.
Wilhoite also scored on touchdown runs of 1 and 7 yards in the fourth quarter for North Hall. Jordan Chaffin, a senior, scored on two touchdown runs (5 and 25 yards) for the Trojans, who rushed for 361 yards overall.
"We knew all along that North Hall was a very good football team," Ringgold coach Robert Akins said. "They really ran the ball extremely well in the second half."
For Ringgold, the offense centered around what Eastland could do with the ball in his hands. The Tigers also put their fullback in as a quarterback under center, in the shotgun formation and even at wide receiver. Despite aggravating his knee prior to halftime, he still managed to stay in the game and score on a 57-yard pass from quarterback Josh Moore with 7:05 left in the third quarter.
"We just try to move Martrez around all over the field to get the ball in his hands," Akins added.
After Eastland’s touchdown narrowed the Trojans’ lead to 31-21, North Hall’s defense took control. Interceptions by Wilhoite and Jones in the fourth quarter brought an end to the Tigers’ final two drives of the game.
Eastland led Ringgold with 15 carries for 102 yards. Moore had 17 completions for 145 yards for the Tigers.
Trailing 10-0 in the second quarter, Jerrod Cooper scored the Tigers’ first touchdown on a 27-yard pass from Moore. Ringgold scored again with 1:20 left in the first half when C.J. Evans scored on an 11-yard pass from Moore to give the team a 14-10 lead.
In the first half, North Hall got inside the Ringgold 20, but only scored a touchdown on a 5-yard run by Chaffin. Shane Doster connected on a 37-yard field goal for the Trojans in the second quarter.