Posted: Thursday, August 15th 2013 at 9:39am
Football 2013: Excited Trojans brimming with experience and depth
By Morgan Lee Editor
NORTH HALL: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Green and White
CURRENT REGION: 7-AAA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Bob Christmas, 13th season, 97-43
2012 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 11-3, Region 7-AAA champion, Class AAA semifinalist
KEY LOSSES: QB Bradley Brown, C Avery Easton, RB TJ Tate and RB Kevin Christmas (both rushed for over 1,000 yards last season), DL Matt Pratte, OLB Taylor Ryder
OFFENSIVE STYLE: Wishbone -- The Trojans installed the offense to great effect last season, rushing for 333 yards per game, and will return many of the linemen that paved the way for those gaudy numbers.
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. QB Andrew Smith (605 yards rushing, 17 total TDs in 2012), Sr. FB Destin Bennett, Sr. FB David Epps, Sr. RB Zac Little (part of six senior returning lettermen), Sr. OG Thomas Marchman, Sr. OG Dylan Truelove (part of six senior returning lettermen).
DEFENSIVE STYLE: 3-4 -- As with the offense, a new style paid dividends for North Hall last season, allowing just over 14 points per game. And, like the offense, the defense is full of experience with eight returning starters.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. Saf Andrew Smith (leading tackler in 2012), Sr. ILB Destin Bennett, Sr. NG Justin Bacus, Sr. Saf Will Cape, Sr. NG Russell Gillespie, Sr. ILB David Epps, Sr. CB Isaac Seid
SPECIAL TEAMS: So. PK Chris Dennis, Sr. P Zac Little
STRENGTH: Depth/experience -- The Trojans have a 23-man senior class, and almost all of them are key players back from last year's explosive campaign. Christmas also says the group is a joy to coach.
QUESTION: Offensive center/ place kicker -- The Trojans must replace standouts in Avery Easton (offensive line) and Modesto Cruz (kicker) but should have the capability to do so. In other words, there aren't many questions right now.
KEY GAMES: The opener against Chestatee in The Brickyard will be an emotional tone-setter for both teams, while traveling to Jefferson on Sept. 13 will give the Trojans a chance to size themselves up against a defending state champ. White County (Oct. 18) could also be a big test, but the biggest contest could come on the last night of the regular season at home to Buford (Nov. 8).
TRENDING: North Hall re-established itself as one of the better teams in northeast Georgia last season, riding a shift in offensive and defensive styles all the way to a state semifinal berth. The deep postseason run matched the Trojans' best ever performance, and, with so many key players back, North Hall certainly likes its chances again in 2013.
Aug. 30 vs. Chestatee
Sept. 6 at Johnson
Sept. 13 at Jefferson
Sept. 27 vs. Dawson County
Oct. 4 vs. East Hall
Oct. 11 at Fannin County
Oct. 18 at White County
Oct. 25 vs. West Hall
Nov. 1 at Banks County
Nov. 8 vs. Buford
GAINESVILLE -- Last year there were questions. This year there is simply excitement.
North Hall football coach Bob Christmas acknowledges there is a buzz around the Trojans for 2013 -- and with 23 returning seniors from 2012’s Class AAA semifinalist, why not? But Christmas also cautions that experience is no guarantor of success and that North Hall must maintain its focus.
"We're real excited about our kids. Last year we had a lot of change and unknowns. This year it's just a matter of tweaking a few things," Christmas said. "There was never any getting bored last year. The challenge this year is to not get complacent. We had a great nucleus of underclassmen on the field last year, and though we lost some good players, we've got that nucleus back."
"We lost two 1,000 yards rushers, a good quarterback and a very good center, but we've got six senior running backs coming back this year," Christmas said. "And they're ready to step up and be main people. Up front we're as big as we've ever been, and this is a hard-working group. It's been a fun bunch to coach."
Despite graduating starter Bradley Brown at quarterback, the explosive Andrew Smith is ready to step in and be the every down signal caller after splitting time with Brown last season, rushing for 605 yards and 10 touchdowns (he also completed seven touchdown passes) in the process. He will be aided by a massive front line that includes returning seniors Thomas Marchman (6-foot-4, 260 pounds), Dylan Truelove (6-3, 260), Russell Gillespie, Justin Bacus, Cole Strickland and Avery Rogers, along with junior Hayden Hughes.
The unit will clear the way for a deep stable of running backs, including returning fullbacks David Epps (129 yards rushing, 2 TDs in 2012) and Destin Bennett (160 yards, 1 TD), along with halfbacks Zac Little (551 yards, 7 TDs), Brannon Dyer and Isaac Seid -- all seniors. Fellow senior Will Cape will also see action in the backfield
"We're trying to make them all interchangeable," Christmas said. "People will be prepped for us this year, but we feel like we've got some tremendous potential there."
The same goes for the Trojans defense, which allowed just over 14 points per game last season and just 8.6 points through three playoff wins. And like the offense, the North Hall defense will be anchored by a strong front line.
Bacus (285 pounds) and Gillespie (300 pounds) will feature at noseguard, while Marchman, Truelove, Devon Motes and Strickland will rotate at defensive end.
Little, Hughes, Austin Perry, Dalton Lavender and Nolan Tucker will feature at outside linebacker, while Bennett (119 tackles), Epps, Bobby Mendenhall and Ingram will play inside.
The secondary is also set with Smith (team-high 138 tackles in 2012) and Cape (123 tackles) at safety and Seid, Dyer Lee Shelton and Stephen Murray also rotating in the backfield.
"We're so much better than last year there," Christmas said.
One of the few questions North Hall must answer is in the kicking game, where the reliable leg of Modesto Cruz is no longer available after his graduation. Sophomore Chris Dennis will take over, while Zac Little will punt.
The Trojans will be challenged from the start, facing old foe Chestatee to open the campaign and two defending state champs in Jefferson and Buford. In between comes a tough Region 7-AAA slate.
“We do have Buford at the end. They've got a tremendous program, probably as good as anyone in the country. They're loaded, and they do a tremendous job coaching their kids,” Christmas said. “We feel like we may have one of our best teams coming up, but they're the ones you've got to beat. We’ve also got to play Chestatee and Jefferson and a tough region. We’re going to have to play every week. We have to take steps to get there and if you take an off week we'll never get there.”
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