Posted: Friday, October 25th 2013 at 7:30pm
North Hall and West Hall ready to put it on the line tonight (Video)
By Morgan Lee Editor
North Hall's Andrew Smith, left, and West Hall's Kwon Williams will lead their teams into a Region 7-AAA showdown on Friday at The Brickyard in Gainesville.
GAINESVILLE -- Parity has not been a hallmark of the North Hall-West Hall football rivalry.
In fact, only twice during their 11-game series have the Trojans and Spartans played each other to within two touchdowns difference.
That could all change Friday night.
After winning six straight over the Spartans, North Hall coach Bob Christmas warns that his team could well be in for a dogfight this time around at The Brickyard.
“Their personnel is very good,” Christmas said of West Hall. “They have three backs as good as there are in our region; they have a big division I tight end/defensive end; they’re big up front... Coach (Tony) Lotti has them running an offense now instead of just running plays, and they execute well on defense, and they play with passion.”
(NOTE: To watch a video preview of the game, simply click "play" in the box to the right.)
Passion is a word that Christmas says must define his own team on Friday -- and something that was lacking in last week’s upset loss at White County.
“We’ve got to play with more passion then we played with (last week),” Christmas said. “We’re North Hall, and that’s how we win. Without a doubt we have to get back to doing that.”
Considering what’s on the line this week, you can expect plenty of fire and determination on both sidelines.
While the eighth-ranked Trojans (6-1, 3-1 Region 7-AAA) are itching to rebound from last week’s setback, the Spartans (5-2, 3-1) are riding an impressive surge that has West Hall in the hunt for its first state playoff berth since 2002. The two programs are tied for second place -- along with White County -- in 7-AAA and know that Friday’s outcome could prove a huge stepping stone.
“We’re pumped. It’s the first time in I don’t even know how long since we’ve had this close to a winning record,” said Spartans senior linebacker Eric Camacho, who has already helped his team to its most wins since 2008, when West Hall went 5-5. “It’s been an even longer time since we’ve made it to playoffs, so playing North Hall is big for us.”
The Spartans’ second-season rebound under Lotti has impressed, but the coach believes it’s far from finished in 2013 -- even if the task tonight is steep.
“To be able to still be playing for something this late in the season is a very important part of the process,” Lotti said. “It’s going to be a huge challenge (tonight), because they’re a great program. They’re the measuring stuck not just in Hall County but the state in my opinion. I think it’s important to match their physical play. They’re motivated, and we’re motivated too but we’re in uncharted territory.
“We believe we have a shot, and we’ll see how we react after last week (which featured a 27-7 win over East Hall) with someone highly motivated.”
The Trojans too recognize the significance of victory on Friday.
“I think we digressed last week,” North Hall senior lineman Thomas Marchman said. “And we have to keep getting better to accomplish what we want to accomplish. We’ve got a long way to go, but I think we’re on the right track.”
Indeed, both teams are still well within reach of their preseason goals, and Christmas hopes last week’s defeat can act as a catalyst -- much like a 2012 setback against Jefferson helped pave the way for a Class AAA semifinal run.
And, much like last week, North Hall is expecting a physical battle against a foe that likes to run the ball.
West Hall enters the contest rushing for just over 232 yards per game and passing for just under 100 yards per contest. Kwon Williams paces the Spartans with 503 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, while Tyquan Statham has 312 yards and four scores. Meanwhile, quarterback Zach English has thrown for 10 touchdowns against just one interception, finding towering tight end Hunter Atkinson for a team-high 30 receptions (no other player even has five catches yet) for 408 yards and eight TDs.
“They’re a lot improved over last year,” Marchman said of West Hall. “I’m expecting them to give their best effort and I think it’s going to be a tough game, in the trenches, especially.”
Likewise, the Spartans are prepping for a grind against a Trojans offense averaging just over 391 rush yards per game. Senior Zac Little leads the way with 856 yards and nine touchdowns, while quarterback Andrew Smith is second with 718 yards and a team-high 11 TDs.
“I think Andrew Smith is the ultimate football player. He’s a student of the game, and that’s one of the reasons why he plays so fast because he knows what you’re doing. I think he scouts as well as any coach I’ve ever been around,” Lotti said of the senior. “Then you put Little and (fullback Destin) Bennett back there, who have played together so long, and that means a lot. I’m just looking for us to go out there and match-up and hold on and be there for all 48 minutes.”
It could be a very intriguing 48 minutes indeed.
WEST HALL at NORTH HALL
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
-- WHERE: The Brickyard, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM
-- WEST HALL (5-2, 3-1 Region 7-AAA): Defeated East Hall 27-7 last week.
-- NORTH HALL (6-1, 3-1 Region 7-AAA): Lost 21-7 to White County last week. The Trojans are ranked No. 8 in Class AAA.
-- HISTORY: North Hall won the last meeting 48-10 in 2012. The Trojans lead the series 7-4, including six straight victories.
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