There are five words written on the white board in the North Hall football team’s meeting room in the week leading up to the Trojans’ first-round playoff game against Lakeview-Ft. Oglethorpe on Friday: Fight, scratch, strain, claw and nasty.
North Hall coach David Bishop put them there following the team’s overtime loss to Dawson County in the regular season finale. After winning three straight blowouts leading up to the defeat at the hands of the Tigers, Bishop said his team has had to relearn how to fight in tight situations. Playing tough, physical football will be the biggest key to the Trojans extending their season past the first round, according to Bishop.
“We didn’t do that Friday night, because we haven’t had to in a long time,” he said. “And we have to realize that it doesn’t matter who we play. We have to approach it that way.”
The loss to end the regular season put a blemish on an otherwise magical season for the Trojans.
North Hall averaged more than 40 points scored a game while allowing only 101 total points on the season defensively — the second-lowest total in school history. The 32.9-point average margin of victory is the best mark the program has ever seen.
“We’re excited about how the season went,” quarterback David Seavey said. “We broke some school records, which we weren’t planning to do, but it happened. But we still have one goal. That’s to see if we can win a state championship.”
In order to reach that ultimate goal, the Trojans will have to accomplish a couple of firsts. For starters, North Hall has never won a road playoff game, and as a No. 3 seed this year, it will most likely have to travel every week.
Bishop said he’s not shying away from “the proverbial monkey on our back” that the team is facing.
“It’s not been a large focus, but we’ve talked about it,” he said. “I said ‘Guys I’m not going to focus on the fact that we’ve never won a road playoff game in the history of the school, but it’s real. And if we take care of business, that’ll be a first. No one can ever take that away from you.’”
In order to advance, North Hall and its Wing T offense will have to overcome Lakeview-Ft. Oglethorpe’s triple-option attack.
The two teams are similar in that both pick up the majority of their yardage on the ground and both pride themselves in playing hard-nosed defense.
“The one thing that sticks out on tape for me is everybody’s had to drive the ball on them,” Bishop said. “… They play hard, and they make people have to drive it. I don’t foresee us ripping off 50, 60, 70-yard touchdowns like we have over the last few weeks.”
The Trojans have depended on big plays for much of the year, so the Warriors will present a unique test in terms of the necessity to sustain drives.
Defensively, the biggest key for North Hall will be staying on assignment. Against the triple option, even one player losing discipline could spring an unmarked running back for a big gain.
“We have to play assignment football,” Seavey said. “We have to make sure that we do everything we’re supposed to do. If one person doesn’t do their job, that play could be a touchdown, and that could be the turning point in the game.”
But perhaps as important as the scheme for the Trojans is the attitude they play with in what projects to be another close contest.
If they want to flip the script this time around, Seavey and every member of the team will have to fight, scratch, strain, claw and be nasty.
“North Hall has always been a very physical team, and they’ve always been known as getting after it,” Seavey said. “We didn’t do that last Friday. We just need to get back to how we were.”