After a rocky start to the year, fortunes appear to be changing for the North Hall football team.
The Trojans entered the year with high hopes following a deep playoff run in 2018, but a rash of injuries caused the team to drop three of four games in September and early October, making merely qualifying for postseason play a question mark.
It’s safe to say those concerns are now in the past.
North Hall has won its last two games by a combined 97-0 — both against region opponents, and both on the road. Most importantly, the team’s dominant win over Lumpkin County last Friday locked up a playoff spot. When the Trojans face East Hall tonight in this week’s Times Game of the Week, they will be fighting for the opportunity to start the postseason at home.
North Hall coach David Bishop said the early adversity has given the team a boost of energy now that things are running smoothly once again.
“I think when we became healthy, it really ignited a little extra into our kids, knowing that we played well without a lot of starters out throughout the season,” Bishop said. “And now to have everybody back and healthy is kind of special. They’re really excited about the opportunities in front of them right now.”
At 1-8, East Hall has already been eliminated from playoff contention, but that doesn’t mean today’s game lacks importance for the Vikings, too.
First-year head coach Michael Perry said that while playoffs may be out of the question, he still has plenty to learn about his team heading into the offseason.
“The biggest thing is every week competing to the best of our ability and to learn from our mistakes from previous weeks and not make the same mistake over and over again,” he said. ”That’s the biggest thing we’re looking for.”
When the two schools meet, they will bring offensive styles to the field that are as different as the teams’ situations.
East Hall carries one of the area’s most explosive passing attacks, as the Vikings will focus on making big plays through the air.
“They have kids that can score from anywhere at any time,” Bishop said. “Every one of their receivers has that ability. Their running back has that ability. And their quarterback is tough to get a hand on.”
Conversely, North Hall will stick to the Wing-T ground game that has brought it plenty of success in recent years.
Despite the Trojans’ lack of ability to move the ball through the air, Perry has plenty of respect for the Trojans offense, which is averaging more than 30 points a game on the season, and 40 points a contest in the last month.
“North Hall’s offense, we’re going to have our hands full trying to contain them,” Perry said. “On offense, we really have to put up points.”
East Hall’s already difficult task is made tougher by the fact that the Trojans, who have seen nine starters go down to injury already this season, are relatively healthy with only two weeks remaining in the season.
North Hall’s early-season troubles seem to be behind it, and with the most important games still in the future, the Trojans are now playing their best football of the season.
“I’m just real proud of our kids,” Bishop said. “When you consider everything that they’ve gone through, the number of injuries that we’ve dealt with and some disappointments along the way, for us to be in contention for a home playoff game at this point is special.”