Posted: Monday, August 13th 2012 at 9:39am
Football 2012: Priorities very much the same for Trojans
By Morgan Lee Editor
GAINESVILLE -- There may be a buzz in the air about change for North Hall, but coach Bob Christmas says not to expect anything drastic about how the Trojans approach football Friday nights in 2012.
“We’re still going to run the ball, and we’re going to give it everything we’ve got on every down,” said Christmas. “We’ve tweaked some stuff, but some of what you’ll see is very much the same.”
It’s a prospect that has every Trojan player, not to mention Christmas, eager to kick off -- though there will undoubtedly be some butterflies come opening night.
“There’s a lot of unknown for us,” Christmas said. “And though we’ve looked good with it in practice you never know how kids are going to react once you get into a real game.”
Those alterations include making the offense more multiple. There will still be plenty of wing-T sets but there will also be some one-, two- and three-back looks that will appear nothing like the Trojans of the past decade.
“It’s going to be faster-paced,” senior quarterback Bradley Brown said earlier in the summer. “Our backs will be at full speed when they’re getting the ball, and I think that will make a difference.”
The defense, meanwhile, will also present a new face, as it switches from a 4-4 to a 3-4 base that will get another defensive back into the starting line-up.
“In the past we’ve been more of a read-and-react style of defense,” Christmas said. “Now we’re going to move around more and we’ll probably bring more pressure than in the past.”
Despite all the changes, there are plenty of familiar faces in place to perform, as North Hall returns seven starters each on offense and defense. What’s more, many of the new starters and back-ups earned significant playing time last season, as the Trojans battled injuries.
“We’ve got a bunch of big, hard-nosed kids and there’s no sense of entitlement in any of them -- depth causes that,” Christmas said. “We don’t have any superstars, but we’ve got a bunch of guys we’re comfortable changing in and out of positions with no drop off.”
Competition flourished during North Hall’s preseason practices and camps, including at the quarterback spot, where senior Bradley Brown and junior Andrew Smith have battled for the starting position and will right up until first kick off.
“They’re both good competitors, and they both have certain strengths and differences,” Christmas said. “They both played last year, and we’re excited about both of them.”
It’s a theme that repeats itself throughout the Trojans’ roster.
“We don’t have huge numbers, but we feel like pretty much all the guys we have can play,” Christmas said.
That’s certainly true at running back, where North Hall will turn to a phalanx of Trojans to make up for the lost production of graduated standout Imani Cross -- now at Nebraska.
Destin Bennett and David Epps will split time at fullback, while Zac Little, Kevin Christmas, T.J. Tate, Brannon Dyer, Isaac Seid and Marcus Hulsey will likely all see time at halfback.
“They’ve got the potential to be the best line I’ve had at North Hall,” Christmas said of a group that features senior and 2011 all-region center Avery Easton. Patrick Chappell, Thomas Marchman, Matt Pratte, Dylan Truelove, Justin Bacus, Russell Gillespie, Cole Strickland and Scott Talley will also battle for playing time. They will be joined by tight ends Eric Gonter and Taylor Ryder.
Will Cape, Caleb Parrish and Lee Shelton are battling for time at receiver.
Defensively, North Hall features many of the same names, with Pratte, Marchman, Truelove, Chappell and Bacus figuring along the line. Gonter and Ryder should start at outside linebacker, while Bennett -- all-region at defensive end in 2011 -- has moved to inside linebacker.
Parrish, Cape, Tate and Trystan Regnier will all play cornerback, while Smith leads the safety corps -- which also includes Avery Cagle, Dyer, Shelton and Hulsey.
North Hall also returns its placekicker in Modesto Cruz.
“There’s not a ton of difference in a lot of the guys we’ll play,” Christmas said.
There is plenty of difference in the schedule, however, and though North Hall stayed in Class AAA, its region changed around it -- as Banks County, Buford, Dawson County, East Hall and Fannin County join North Hall and former 8-AAA competitors West Hall and White County in the new 7-AAA.
“There’s just a lot of unknowns this year,” Christmas said. “Our non-region schedule will be very tough this year too with a senior-laden Chestatee and a senior-laden Jefferson. We’re just ready to see what kind of team we can be.”
NORTH HALL: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Green and White
CURRENT REGION: 7-AAA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Bob Christmas, 12th season, 86-40
2011 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 4-6
KEY LOSSES: RB/LB Imani Cross (1,706 yards rushing, 24 touchdowns/team-high 88 tackles), WB Eli Gilmer, OL/DL Cam Howell, OL/DL John Mancin, OL/DL Alan Kattelmann, DB Wade Phillips
OFFENSIVE STYLE: Multiple -- the Trojans aren’t completely ditching their signature wing-T, but North Hall will throw a lot of other looks at defenses, including some one-, two- and three-back sets. The Trojans are still a run-first team and return seven starters from 2011.
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. QB Bradley Brown, Jr. QB Andrew Smith (the two QBs were still battling for the starting spot as of publication time), Sr. C Avery Easton (all-region in 2011), Jr. FB Destin Bennett, Jr. FB David Epps, Jr. RB Zac Little, Sr. RB Kevin Christmas
DEFENSIVE STYLE: 3-4 -- Change abounds for North Hall on defense too, as the Trojans move to an odd front. North Hall will add a little more pressure to its repertoire. The Trojans return seven starters from 2011.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. DL Matt Pratte, Sr. OLB Taylor Ryder, Jr. S Andrew Smith (all-region in 2011), Jr. ILB Destin Bennett (all-region in 2011)
SPECIAL TEAMS: Sr. PK Modesto Cruz, Jr. P Zac Little/Sr. Bradley Brown
STRENGTH: Depth -- North Hall may not have an Imani Cross on the roster this season, but the Trojans feel they have more quality depth and are at least two-deep at every position (and three in many).
QUESTION: Change -- The Trojans like what they have seen of the alterations they have made to their offensive and defensive styles, but they’re curious to see how they will react under live fire.
KEY GAMES: The Trojans open the season against arch-rival Chestatee (Aug. 31, away), and while the game no longer carries playoff implications, it will be a strong test right out of the gates. North Hall opens Region 7-AAA play against a Dawson County team loaded with upperclassmen (Sept. 28, away). The Trojans close the regular season at state powerhouse Buford (Nov. 9, away).
TRENDING: After two straight campaigns of missing the state playoffs, North Hall is determined to get back into the postseason -- a place the Trojans visited seven of the eight previous seasons.
Aug. 31 at Chestatee
Sept. 7 vs. Johnson
Sept. 14 vs. Jefferson
Sept. 28 at Dawson County
Oct. 5 at East Hall
Oct. 12 vs. Fannin County
Oct. 19 vs. White County
Oct. 26 at West Hall
Nov. 2 vs. Banks County
Nov. 9 at Buford
© Copyright 2013 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.