North Hall coach Bob Christmas doesn’t mask the fact that he’s got substantial youth on his team in key positions heading into the season.
Not that it’s unfamiliar territory, even during the Trojans’ stretch of four consecutive undefeated seasons and 22 straight wins in Region 7A-AAA play.
“I feel like we have some really good players, but we’re going to be very young in some areas, especially the offensive line,” Christmas said. “But I feel like we have a chance to be a very good team.”
If North Hall is going to experience any growing pains, there really isn’t any grace period during the early stretch of the schedule. Its first three games are against Jefferson, St. Pius X and Gainesville — all teams that spent most of last year ranked in the Top 10.
However, by the time the Trojans open the subregion schedule Oct. 1 against Chestatee, they’ll already have four games under their belts.
The good news is that North Hall has a very talented junior class, led by a battery of Division-I level prospects on offense with quarterback Kanler Coker, running back Imani Cross and wide receiver C.J. Curry.
Christmas has always been a run-first coach out of the Wing-T offense and has produced great results with an average of almost 3,500 yards on the ground the past four seasons.
But the addition of Curry (already holding a scholarship offer from the University of Georgia), to the other receivers already in place — Jesse Strickland, Wade Phillips, Hunter Berg and Darius Curry — there may be a little more of a vertical passing game this season for the Trojans. North Hall also has a good tight end in D.J. Miolen, who is being recruited by colleges such as Georgia Southern.
“I’m really a pragmatist,” Christmas said. “I like to think that we’re broad-based enough on offense to be able to accentuate what we do best.”
Leading the way at quarterback is Coker (6-4, 195), who took a fair number of snaps in relief of Nathan Jones last season, but never really got to showcase what he’s able to do with his arm. Christmas says they got a taste of what he’ll be able to do for the Trojans during summer camps.
“He runs the offense well and throws the ball really well,” Christmas said.
Christmas says running the football should be one of the team strength’s this season. Cross (1,407 yards last season at Flowery Branch) is the top running back in place for North Hall and is coming off an Achilles injury.
Also, Christmas is encouraged by what he sees from Clay Quinn, Amin Aziz and Mack VanGorder. Randy Olson, Eli Gilmer and Shane Doster may also factor into the backfield rotation.
On the offensive line, the Trojans are led by Cam Howell, Alan Kattlemann, Chase Strickland, Karsen Coker, returning starter Roger Ponce and Miolen at tight end. Christmas says the line is the main question mark with fitting the right five players into place to form an explosive offense.
“I know we have kids that can catch, and a quarterback that can throw,” Christmas said.
“We’ve just got to have the protection on the offensive line.”
Linebacker has been a strength for North Hall in recent seasons. That looks to continue again in 2010. Christmas is very confident about his inside linebackers with VanGorder (5-11, 195) at one spot. The other inside linebacker spot will be decided between Karsen Coker, Trevor Holbrooks and Taylor Ryder.
Outside linebacker will be held down by Olson, Doster and Aziz in the Trojans’ 4-4 scheme.
On the line, Miolen and Ponce will play on the end. Strickland will play at one of the tackle spots.
In the secondary, Coker, C.J. Curry and Phillips will play safety. Quinn, Gilmer and Darius Curry will play on the corner.
Doster, a four-year player, will handle all of the kicking duties.
Expectations are always high at North Hall. The Trojans have opened the playoffs at home each season since 2006. While North Hall plays in a tough subregion this season, with the addition of Franklin County and Stephens County, expect the Trojans to be right in position for a playoff spot at season’s end — even if they do take a subregion loss.