As many times North Hall and Dawson County each lit up the scoreboard this season, head football coaches David Bishop and Sid Maxwell still have no idea what kind of night it will be Friday when the two teams clash in a Week 12, Region 7-3A contest in Dawsonville.
One thing they are sure of, is that it will not be a typical regular-season finale.
The Trojans (8-1, 4-1 Region 7-3A) and seventh-ranked Tigers (8-1, 4-1) — two of the classifications most potent offenses — will meet at Tiger Stadium, in a battle for second place in the 7-3A, and bragging rights to host at least one home playoff game as a No. 2 seed.
“It’s one of the great opportunities for us, playing at home — one of the biggest games in Dawson County history, as far as football goes,” said Maxwell, who has guided the Tigers to the postseason in each of the last three seasons, including a state quarterfinal appearance in 2015.
North Hall and Dawson County have split the four-game series. Dawson County has won the last two. The winner will host the No. 3 team out of the Region 6 in the opening round of the Class 3A tournament next week.
For Bishop’s business-minded Trojans, they are fully aware of the opportunity in-hand. A chance to play at the The Brickyard at least one more week would be big for North Hall, which hasn’t hosted a first-round game since 2012 and has never won on the road in the postseason.
“They don’t get too overly emotional, but they are excited for the opportunity,” Bishop said.
While there’s no telling how the mind of a high school athlete operates from week to week, Maxwell is still confident his kids are ready for the occasion.
“They know North Hall is a very good football team,” Maxwell said. "They’ve scored unbelievable amounts the last three football games. We’ll have our work cut out for us.”
North Hall’s deceptively balanced Wing-T ranks second in the Class 3A, averaging 46 points and 381 yards a contest. The Trojans have scored 70-plus in back-to-back weeks, even setting a single-game mark of 76 in a shutout victory over East Hall last Friday night.
The talents of Daniel Jackson and JT Fair continue to spearhead the Trojans’ attack. Jackson has excelled on offense and special teams, compiling 1,513 all-purpose yards and 23 total touchdowns in nine games. Fair’s explosiveness off the exchange has resulted in him averaging a staggering 13.8 yards a carry while racking up 635 yards and six scores in 23 fewer attempts than his senior classmate Jackson.
North Hall senior quarterback David Seavey (614 passing yards, eight touchdowns, no interceptions) has thrown for two touchdowns in each of his last three games.
“They have been a very explosive football team, with tremendous gains as far as long runs and explosive passes,” Maxwell said. We gotta limit those if we’re gonna have a chance. ...And we gotta move the ball effectively. We’re gonna have to match them, and obviously try to play sound football.d
Maxwell’s offense isn’t too shabby either. The Tigers have inhabited the state’s top-10 for much of the season thanks to an offense averaging 36 points per game. It’s steered by the talents of senior Sevaughn Clark, who made the switch to quarterback in the offseason and has helped carry the Tigers with both his arm (52 of 91, 680 yards, seven touchdowns, one interception) and feet (647 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns).
It’s a different look than one Coey Watson provided as the previous signal caller for the Tigers, according to Bishop.
“Being a four-year starter, Coey brought a different dynamic to that team,” the North Hall coach said. “He had the ability to pass a lot more than what they’re doing this year, run the ball and also adlib. If someone’s not open he had that unique ability to scramble around and make plays. It made things real tough, whereas right now, they are a real run-heavy football team.”
Dawson County’s tandem of ball carriers is a group, Bishop said, they have not faced before based on size and speed. Senior running back Ahmad Kamara (no relation to NFL back Alvin Kamara) has accounted for 871 yards and 11 scores on the ground. And the Tiger rushing attack has combined for 36 touchdowns.
All the reason why one of North Hall’s big focuses at practice this week has involved the fundamentals of wrapping up.
“We have faced some pretty good (players), but nothing like those two (Clark, Kamara),” Bishop said. Both of them are over 200 pounds and can probably run a 4.6 (40-yard dash). They have a good mixture of size and speed that we’ll have to be able to keep in check.”
Dawson County also matches the experience of North Hall’s defense with a number of three-year starters on that side of the ball, according to Bishop.
Outside the X’s and O’s, Bishop identified the external factors as the biggest keys for Friday night.
“Turnovers and mental mistakes, the team that can limit those and be successful in those areas will be the one who moves on to have a home playoff game,” he said.
Regardless of the outcome Friday, it wouldn’t surprise Bishop if his current group makes more history moving forward.
“This team has done some things in my 18 years here no one has ever done,” Bishop said. “It would be fun to be able to play a game away from home, and be able to do something nobody has ever done in 61 years at North Hall, which is win on the road. ...Either way, I want our kids to be able to do something special. This has been a special group.”