GAINESVILLE -- With two sets of Trojans on the field Friday night in Gainesville, it would have been easy to confuse which group was coming off a Class AAA runner-up finish and a 52-5 record over the past four seasons.
North Hall may not have visited the playoffs over the past two campaigns, yet the host Trojans assumed the mantle of powerhouse perfectly at The Brickyard, dominating Peach County 52-10.
The stunning victory vaulted North Hall back into the semifinals for the first time since 2007, as the Trojans rolled to their 10th straight state victory at home. North Hall will take on St. Pius in the fourth round, with a coin flip determining home-field advantage.
"This was just crazy; I can't even describe this feeling, just incredible," North Hall running back TJ Tate said. "This team has so much heart, and I think it shows something to anybody who was doubting us."
The only moment of doubt for the Trojans (11-2) came in the first 30 seconds, as Peach County (11-2) took the opening kickoff and scored after just two plays.
From there it was all North Hall, as the Trojans responded to their first deficit of the postseason by storming back to force a running clock in the fourth quarter.
"We came in pretty confident and everybody just played great today, especially the offensive line," North Hall quarterback Bradley Brown said. "They dominated."
The larger Trojans pushed Peach County around in the trenches, paving the way for 430 yards rushing -- including 182 yards on 18 carries for Tate and 172 yards on 17 carries for Kevin Christmas. Each back scored two rushing touchdowns, while Tate also hauled in a 23-yard scoring pass from Brown.
"We just basically stuck with one play all game, and it kept working," Tate said. "Coach (Bob) Christmas said we were going to stay with it until the stopped it, and they never really did."
Meanwhile, North Hall's defense shackled Peach County's previously explosive offense, yielding 387 yards but only one touchdown. The visitors did throw for 228 yards but quarterback Greg Williams never found much rhythm, completing just 13 of 31 attempts -- including at least 10 drops by Peach County receivers. And while standout receiver Demarcus Robinson did catch six passes for 147 yards, 117 of that came after North Hall owned a 38-10 lead.
"We were blessed tonight, no doubt about it. Our kids played with no fear and great passion tonight," Christmas said. "We've only given up three touchdowns in three playoff games this year. I can't say enough about the way our defense is playing right now."
North Hall fashioned a champion's response after falling behind just 29 seconds after kickoff when Peach County's Keyshawn Lowe sprinted 39 yards for the game's opening score.
Like a red rag to a bull, the touchdown run seemed to ignite the Trojans, who responded with three straight touchdowns for a 21-7 lead after the first quarter. In fact, North Hall scored on all five possessions in the first half for a 31-10 advantage.
Tate got things going, exploding on a 39-yard scoring run with 8:40 left in the first. Kevin Christmas took his turn on the next possession, scampering 11 yards around right end for a touchdown before Tate got back on the scoreboard again -- this time hauling in a 23-yard strike from Brown for a 21-7 advantage with 2:55 left in the first.
North Hall's wishbone offense scythed through Peach County for 253 rushing yards in the first half, including 135 for Tate. Brown also completed 2 of 3 passes for 55 yards, as North Hall tallied more points in a half than Peach had allowed in one game this season.
Peach County's only other score of the half came on a 26-yard goal from Alfredo Cervantez after the Trojans held at their own 10-yard line at the start of the second quarter.
North Hall also answered with a chip shot field goal of its own, Modesto Cruz drilling a 24-yard kick with 8:00 left in the first half. Tate then tacked on a five-yard run, capping another impressive series in which North Hall forced a turnover on downs at its own 41 before marching 59 yards for a 31-10 lead at the half.
If Peach County had any ideas of a second half comeback, Andrew Smith did much to douse them, returning the opening kickoff of the half 71 yards to set up a 1-yard touchdown run for Christmas and a 38-10 North Hall lead.
Unable to move the ball consistently, Peach County watched Brown and Smith add back-to-back seven-yard scoring runs, as the Trojans turned their thoughts toward next week's showdown with St. Pius.
"I keep going back to the heart of these kids," Christmas said. "There's no egos on this team. This is a true team, and this shows what a true team can do."
Representatives of the two teams will meet up on Saturday morning to record the coin flip.
Peach Co.....7.....3.....0....0 -- 10
North Hall...21...10...14....7 -- 52
PC -- Lowe 39 run (Cervantez kick) 11:31, 7-0
NHHS -- Tate 48 run (Cruz kick) 8:40, 7-7
NHHS -- Christmas 11 run (Cruz kick) 4:55, 7-14
NHHS -- Tate 23 pass from Brown (Cruz kick) 2:55, 7-21
PC -- Cervantes 26 field goal, 11:13, 10-21
NHHS -- Cruz 24 field goal, 8:00, 10-24
NHHS -- Tate 5 run (Cruz kick) 1:00, 10-31
NHHS -- Christmas 1 run (Cruz kick) 9:27, 10-38
NHHS -- Brown 7 run (Cruz kick) 2:04, 10-45
NHHS -- Smith 7 run (Cruz kick) 3:08, 10-52