While other players were slipping and sliding through the muddy filth inside Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe’s Tommy Cash football Stadium last Friday night, North Hall High’s JT Fair was Steady Eddie.
Each time Fair toted the rock, he used those elements to his advantage. While adjusting on the fly, Fair found ways to "put the brakes on" as would-be tacklers missed their mark and slid past the junior Trojans back. It happened on several occasions throughout North Hall’s (9-2) dominant 41-6 upset of the No. 2 seeded Warriors in the first round of the Class 3A Playoffs.
“A lot of times, athletes — whether they’re on mud or not — extend with their cut foot...JT has always kept his feet underneath him when he makes cuts, and that’s an advantage when you’re in the mud,” North Hall coach David Bishop said. “You’re not overextending your leg outside the frame of your body. ... When you do that, that’s when the ground slips from under you ...He didn’t have that issue Friday night.”
He certainly did not.
It was evident Fair was in for a memorable night when he collected quarterback David Seavey’s pitch from the backfield on the Trojans’ fifth play from scrimmage — Fair’s first carry of the night.
“I basically ran straight for about (36) yards and scored,” Fair said. “I knew it was going to be a pretty big night from then on.”
Was it ever. Fair went on to carry nine additional times to rack up a team-high 129 yards and a pair of touchdowns, hauling in a 15-yard scoring reception in the passing game as well. The defensive back also recorded one of two North Hall interceptions as the Trojans got their first road playoff win in their 61-year history. It was also the first-career playoff win for Fair and his Trojan teammates.
For those reasons, Fair is the Times football Player of the Week.
As an offensive unit North Hall accrued 317 of its 342 scrimmage yards on the ground and combined for five scores against Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, getting two from Seavey and one from senior running back Daniel Jackson. Fair praised the guys up front — a six-man wrecking crew of Nate Nixon, Austin Sullens, Micah Holman, Dylan Hughes, Seth Carlton and Logan Jackson — for opening the lanes for the backfield and making sure the No. 3 seeded Trojans maintained possession.
“They just really care about our running backs, and they wanna keep us protected,” Fair said of the offensive line. “They want to block well so we can do well. They don’t get much credit, but they deserve a lot of it.”
It was Fair’s third 100-plus yard performance on the ground this year, and his highest total since erupting for 239 yards and three scores against Fannin County on Oct. 12.
“JT has done a tremendous job all year,” Bishop said. “You know, for most people he’s kind of played second fiddle to them, and he’s done it quietly and unassuming. ...But if you were to consider stats, he’s got pretty dang good stats, whether it be receiving or rushing.”
It all probably stems from the fact that Fair has a knack for finding open grass each time he touches the ball. He has scored on his first touch of the game on three occasions this season, and his mammoth performance last Friday night now brings his season rushing total to 839 yards (65 carries) at a staggering rate of 12.8 yards per attempt.
Fair will have an opportunity to add to that production when North Hall next visits a perennial power and top playoff seed in Cedar Grove this Friday night in Dekalb County. The Saints (10-1) come in ranked No. 2 for a pair of state polls and have reached the state semifinals in each of the last three seasons, winning a state championship in 2016.
Bishop indicated his kids are eager for the challenge. And given their track record of facing a pair of top-10 teams already, he doesn’t think this particular group will buckle to the stage being too large.
“You know …after the Cherokee game, we put a list of teams on the board and said ‘if you want to win a state championship, you’re gonna have to beat these teams,’” Bishop said. “They’ve kind of had that in the back of their minds all this time that this is what we have to do. ...Even though we have to play the No. (2) team in the state, it won’t be a shock, and our kids are going to do the best they can to prepare for it.”