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One more practice run: North Hall and Gainesville football teams prepare for scrimmage one week before start of regular season
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Gainesville's Gionni Williams searches for an open receiver during a game against Winder-Barrow at City Park Stadium on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

The stage is set for the start of the high school football season. The players and coaches are prepared and the fields are carefully manicured and ready for live action. All that’s left before the games start counting is one more practice run. 

In a preseason exhibition game that has become somewhat of a tradition in Hall County, North Hall will clash with Gainesville at 7:30 Friday in City Park Stadium. 

“We haven’t really gone against somebody in a long time, and our kids are getting to that point where they’re just really needing to play someone other than themselves, scrimmage against someone else,” North Hall coach David Bishop said. “I know they’re excited about it.”

Both teams bring back experienced rosters with solidified starters in most spots, but Bishop and Gainesville coach Heath Webb are both still grateful for the opportunity for last second tune-ups. 

Bishop said players can often get a bit rusty in their fundamentals over the summer, and he will be focusing on the detailed execution of small things, such as “taking the right steps, blocking right and tackling and running the right tracks with backs.”

“You kind of get off a little bit in terms of those things,” he added. “Hopefully we’ve been able to get ourselves back and build off of where we were at the end of last season.”

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North Hall's JT Fair holds off Cedar Grove's Montre Montfort at Buck Godfrey Stadium in Panthersville on Friday, Nov. 16, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

Webb hopes to learn as much about his depth players as his starters, and promised that “we’re going to play a lot of kids.”

For starting spots that haven’t yet been locked down — with a big play wide receiver still the most glaring hole left on the roster — Webb will use Friday’s scrimmage as a last minute evaluation before the games start counting. 

“For the positions that are still competitive, we’re going to play a bunch of people and see if somebody stands out and takes a job,” he said. “So that’s one of the things we’re looking at.”

And while the coaches are approaching the contest as a tool to learn more about their teams, the game means a bit more to the athletes who will actually be playing in it. 

Amidst a week of social media jabs between the programs, coaches Bishop and Webb both downplayed the rivalry aspect of the contest.

“To be quite honest, we’re just going into it with an opportunity to get better,” Bishop said. “I know there’s probably a little bit more to it than that, but I’m trying not to make any more to it than that, because our season doesn’t hinge upon this.”

Webb added that rule adjustments — such as removing kickoffs and other special teams plays — makes the exhibition less of an indicator of which team is better, and more of a measuring stick to see where his team is relative to other local squads. 

That being said, players on both sides are looking forward to competing against local friends and rivals. And while the result of Friday’s game won’t show up on either team’s final record, athletes for both programs come into the scrimmage with expectations of winning. 

“It’s still a rivalry,” Webb said. “It’ll still be intense, and it’ll still be heated.”

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