Coming into North Hall’s road matchup against White County, Trojans head coach David Bishop said he was concerned that history would repeat itself and his team would get off to a slow start inside the Warriors one-sided stadium. Those worries appeared valid after a scoreless first half of football.
But an emphatic 20-point third quarter and a dramatic fourth-quarter touchdown drive were just enough to push North Hall (4-0) to a 27-20 victory over the Warriors (1-3).
The Trojans are now unbeaten entering region play just a year after going 0-4 in non-region games last season. Running back Daniel Jackson — who rushed for 65 yards and the game-winning touchdown — said the players feelings about the team are night and day from this point last year.
“It feels so much better,” he said. “There’s not really a comparison.”
The game was decided by a masterfully executed touchdown drive with 9:40 left to play in the final quarter. White County running back Jay Lepkoske had just tied it at 20-20 the with a 14-yard touchdown scamper, and momentum was starting to swing back in favor of the Warriors.
Yet despite the high stakes, North Hall’s offensive players stayed calm and collected as they slowly marched down the field. The clock ticked down as the Trojans continued to move the chains, driving steadily toward the goal line. With about two minutes left, the Trojans faced a fourth-and-1 from inside White County’s 10-yard-line.
Head coach David Bishop called a timeout, and as soon as the offensive players got to the sideline, they made their thoughts on what they should do.
“Our kids looked at me and said, ‘Don’t kick a field goal coach,’” Bishop said. “‘We’ve got your back.’”
One the next snap, running back Drew Faulkner was powering up the middle to pick up the first down. Two plays later, Jackson sprinted into the end zone untouched off a pitch to put the Trojans back out front with 1:01 left.
“Drew [Faulkner] had been punching the ball the whole way down the field, and I just basically got to walk in,” Jackson said of the score. “We had a great block outside. It’s amazing. It was a tremendous experience.”
Out of time, White County failed to answer and North Hall held on for its fourth-straight victory. And while the game finished on a high note for the Trojans, it took a little while for the team to get going.
Unforced errors stymied the offense early on, as turnovers and penalties led to a 12-0 first-half deficit. But despite the lack of production to start the game, Bishop said he wasn’t worried about his team going into halftime.
“We didn’t go in there and yell,” he said. “There wasn’t a mean word said. We just patted them on the backs, told them we loved them and said ‘Hey guys, let’s play North Hall football.’”
And that’s exactly what they did.
A pair of third-quarter interceptions off of White County quarterback J.Ben Haynes and a trio of short, rushing touchdowns — one by Faulkner, two by quarterback David Seavey — put the Trojans on top by eight.
And even though North Hall lost its lead early in the fourth, Bishop said he never wavered in knowing what the game’s outcome would be.
“I’m just proud of [the team],” Bishop said. “I’m proud of the way they came and played for four quarters. They overcame a lot in the first half, and just for them to come out and be as great fighters as they were, I just couldn’t be any more proud of them right now.”
North Hall will be back in action next Friday when it opens Region 7-3A play against Cherokee Bluff.