GAINESVILLE -- The Brickyard came by its name easily enough, but the masonry-ensconced stadium is earning a reputation based on nothing associated with ease.
North Hall football will gun for its 10th straight home playoff victory on Friday night as the Trojans play host to Peach County in a Class AAA quarterfinal contest in Gainesville. And, to hear North Hall football players and coaches tell it, The Brickyard -- like some behemoth ceramic teammate -- will play a key role in the showdown.
"There's nothing like playing at The Brickyard," North Hall junior safety/quarterback/kick returner Andrew Smith said. "The atmosphere is incredible, with the fans right on top of us."
And while certainly almost every team in the state will claim some modicum of home-field advantage, the Trojans' claim bears plenty of weight.
North Hall has not lost a postseason game at The Brickyard since a 2004 quarterfinal defeat to Washington County, which went on to finish as Class AAA runner-up. Since then the Trojans have notched home playoff victories over name programs like Sandy Creek (21-7 in the 2007 second round), Stephens County and Hart County, as well as the last quarterfinal battle played at the venue -- a 12-10 defeat of Perry in 2007 that was decided on a last-minute field goal (the kick sending the Trojans to the Georgia Dome in the Class AAA semifinals).
Earlier this week, Access North Georgia.com sports editor Morgan Lee caught up with members of the North Hall football team to talk about their homefield advantage and what it will take to win on Friday against Peach County. To watch a video presentation with the Trojans, scroll down and click "play."
Facing another name program on Friday, Trojans coach Bob Christmas is glad to know his players draw strength from structures of home.
"I think the confidence we have continues to grow with every win," Christmas said. "I think back to wins over teams like Sandy Creek, Stephens County, Hart County and Perry here. Those were big wins for us. We've got another big one here Friday, but I'm not going to take anything from our kids. I'll believe in them, and we do play at another level when we're at home."
That's not to say the Trojans (10-2) will let the bricks do their playing for them on Friday night, and North Hall's players and coaches know they must turn in a stellar performance in order to get back to the semifinals for the first time in five years.
"Peach County is a really good team coming in," Smith said. "They've got a lot of athletes, and they'll be tough to stop."
Indeed, the visitors -- also nicknamed the Trojans -- feature an explosive and veteran offense that can both run and pass the ball with effect and includes one of the state's top playmakers in receiver Demarcus Robinson, a 2011 All-State selection and Clemson commit. Quarterback Greg Williams has thrown for 2,012 yards and 22 TDs this season, completing just over 60 percent of his passes, while running back Keyshawn Lowe has rushed for 1,081 yards and 11 TDs while missing three games through injury.
"Offensively I think we can spread the ball around. We've got different guys that can make plays," Peach County coach Chad Campbell said. "Our wide receiver is a tremendous player. He's had a couple of games he missed through injury this year, but he's played all four years. He brings an added dimension to what we do."
North Hall's defense has excelled so far this postseason, allowing just 16 total points, while yielding an average of 214 yards per game -- though the Trojans allow they have not faced a team quite like Peach County so far. Yet don't expect that to cow North Hall.
"If we can slow the big receiver down, swarm to the ball on defense when they run it, I think we can pose a lot of challenges for them," Smith said.
One place Campbell believes the Trojans can pose an issue is for Peach County's defense, which bases out of the 3-4 and relies on its linebackers to get to the ball carrier.
"Defensively we're a little bit small up front," said Campbell, whose team will look to slow North Hall's wishbone attack that is averaging 336.8 rush yards per game. "That doesn't bode well against a big front like North Hall's. It's going to be an interesting match-up."
Leaning on the direct and aggressive style of play that has hallmarked this season could be the key for North Hall, which also possesses plenty of players capable of putting up big plays -- including TJ Tate (877 yards rushing, 11 TDs), Kevin Christmas (866 yards rushing, 6 TDs), quarterback Bradley Brown (691 yards rushing, 14 TDs; 518 yards passing, 7 TDs) and Smith (553 yards rushing, 9 TDs; 7 TDs on just 15 passing attempts).
"We've got to stick with our game plan and do what we do best: pound the ball and be physical," Trojans offensive lineman Thomas Marchman said. "Every team left has a got a chance to win it all. We just want to be known as a real physical team that plays hard, gives it their all."
Playing in front of what's sure to be a raucous home crowd, that shouldn't be much of an issue.
"It's really exciting. I can't wait to play in the Brickyard, the most electrifying place I've ever been to," Trojans lineman Justin Bacus said. "I can't wait to fight alongside my brothers."
PEACH COUNTY at NORTH HALL
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: The Brickyard, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM
-- PEACH COUNTY (11-1, No. 2 seed Region 2-AAA): Defeated Pierce County 43-15 last week.
-- NORTH HALL (10-2, No. 1 seed Region 7-AAA): Defeated Morgan County 13-9 last week.
-- HISTORY: This is the two teams' first meeting.
-- WINNER PLAYS: St. Pius vs. Washington County winner in the semifinals.