After the North Hall High football team fumbled the ball away on the game’s opening drive Friday night, the Trojans had to find a way to bounce back from a little adversity — much like many times before this season.
The Trojans did just that and more.
North Hall overcame a seven-point deficit to storm past East Hall High for a 31-20 win at East Hall Stadium in Gainesville, locking up a No. 3 playoff seed as it enters a bye to end the regular season.
“When you think about it, it’s just been the whole story this whole year,” North Hall coach David Bishop said. “We started 0-4, and we keep battling and even tonight in our pregame, that’s all we preached.”
The Trojans (4-6, 4-2 Region 7-3A) held an explosive Vikings (5-4, 2-3) unit to underwhelming results despite senior quarterback Austin Parker adding his name to East Hall’s record books. Parker (24 of 39) became the first 3,000-yard passer in a season for the Vikings, finishing with 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns — both to wideout Sedrion Morse (four catches, 50 yards) in the first and fourth quarters.
Junior running back Cambren Harrison punched in the Vikings’ second touchdown of the evening on a 1-yard plunge, and was the leading receiver for East Hall with five catches for 100 yards.
The Vikings converted a North Hall fumble at the 2-yard line into a long scoring drive to start the contest, but were otherwise out of sync on offense. They turned the ball over on downs four times and saw receivers drop three passes — including a sure touchdown in the back of the end zone that would have given East Hall some headway midway through the second quarter.
“All week long, even going into tonight I told the guys, ‘Look, the key tonight is get four stops. If we get four stops, we’re gonna win this game.’ And I think we got four,” Bishop said with a smile.
East Hall coach Bryan Gray indicated his offense experienced a lack of rhythm, though he gave all credit to North Hall’s defense.
“We never had things going right ... and that’s all because (North Hall) was playing great defense,” Gray said. “That’s the way it goes, you know, we just couldn’t make key stops on key downs, and it’s one of those nights things did not go our way. But North Hall deserves every bit of the credit for executing.”
The Trojans also sacked Parker twice while playing East Hall’s receivers tight with a few pass deflections. An interception by defensive back Luke Volle sealed the victory for North Hall with less than three minutes left to play.
“We knew, in order to have a chance, we had to mix up coverages on every opportunity,” Bishop said. “So we showed them one thing and (then played) another. Our kids just did a great job of being able to make the adjustments, you know, with motion and everything else. They just played pretty good football.”
The Trojans dictated the tempo with 354 rushing yards and four scores on a combined 52 carries split among seven ball carriers, totaling 469 yards from scrimmage. Cutter Sanford added a 68-yard, dash-and-dive touchdown at the start of the second quarter for the Trojans’ longest run of the evening.
It was a fitting return for Sanford, who had missed some time with an injury.
Quarterback David Seavey recorded 168 total yards with a rushing touchdown. Jack Brown (83 rushing yards) and Daniel Jackson (71) supplemented the ground attack with touchdowns as well.
As for East Hall’s playoff hopes, Lumpkin County’s loss Friday night guaranteed the Vikings a No. 4 playoff seed regardless of next week’s outcome. The Vikings finish up the regular season at Fannin County.
North Hall, however, will get a much-deserved breather. From sitting winless five weeks into the season to winning four of six heading into Week 11 with a bye, Bishop hopes his playoff bound Trojans can keep the momentum going.
“It’s just exciting, I don’t have any other words to say for it,” Bishop said. “Just a super bunch of kids, and ready to get into the playoffs, hopefully break through and get our first playoff win on the road in the history of the school.”