JT Fair put his North Hall teammates on his back and had the Gainesville defense in pursuit midway through the second quarter with a 95-yard first half touchdown as the Trojans took the early lead and won 24-14 in a preseason matchup Friday at a near-capacity City Park Stadium. Fair started with modest numbers but picked it up late with a run of 20 yards the drive before his score. He finished with seven carries for 139 yards.
On his touchdown, backed deep in Trojans territory, he took the pitch from quarterback Trey Sanders, promptly bounced off three Red Elephants defenders and outran a defensive back further down the sideline for the score, setting off a raucous Trojans fan section that filled the visitor’s section at Bobby Gruhn Field.
Luke Volle, a two-way starter for North Hall, also came up big on both sides of the ball. Just before halftime, he hauled in a 40-yard pass from Sanders in the final minute, setting up sophomore Luke Brown’s 35-yard field goal with seven seconds left before halftime.
After the break, Volle, from his spot at safety jumped in front of a Giovanni Williams throw and ran it back for a 40-yard touchdown.
Trailing big midway through the third quarter, Gainesville had its longest offensive drive. Senior Walt Dixon — who was targeted multiple times in the opening half — had receptions of 33 and 29 yards. Gainesville senior JD Brooks had a 14 yard run, then scored on a run from the 3.
Brooks got most of his carries early, finishing with 11 carries for 44 yards for the Red Elephants.
Three main takeaways
NORTH HALL IS STRONG IN THE RUN GAME:
The run-first offense of the Trojans had five guys with most of the carries. While Fair is the clear leader of the bunch, Clark Howell (7 carries, 35 yards) and Jacob Dickey (6 carries, 30 yards) also proved to be nice complement pieces who will get plenty of chances once the regular season opens against Chestatee on Friday.
Likely, the Trojans will run the ball probably 80 percent of the time in the regular season. However, Volle is a big physical playmaker on the outside who can’t be overlooked. He has the skill to turn a short reception into a touchdown.
DIXON IS GAINESVILLE’S BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYMAKER: Targeted early and often, Dixon has good hands and will come down with the ball — even on a 50-50 play — if it’s well thrown. The majority of his yardage came late in the game, but he nearly came down with a touchdown pass in the front corner of the game’s first drive. The referee said his feet were out of bounds when he came down with the ball.
GAINESVILLE FOUND SOME DEPTH LATE: Trailing 24-7 late in the fourth quarter, junior Tristan Lyon was plugged in at quarterback for the Red Elephants and a few younger players also appeared at running back. Lyon had a 12-yard run shortly after entering the game, while freshman Naim Cheeks bounced outside on a carry and took it 81 yards down to the Trojans’ 5.
Fellow freshman Xavier Stephens punched the ball in for the final score for Gainesville in the final minute.
UP NEXT: Gainesville hosts Mary Persons on Friday, while North Hall visits Chestatee at War Eagles Stadium.