GAINESVILLE -- North Hall earned their position at the front of the race for the Region 7-AAA title on Friday.
East Hall made sure of that.
The Trojans fended off a determined Vikings squad 56-31 at The Brickyard, getting the better a shootout that saw a combined 1,050 yards between the two combatants.
The fourth-ranked Trojans (5-0, 2-0 Region 7-AAA) rolled up 611 of those yards, including 572 on the ground, as they leaned on a rushing attack that continued to slice through opposing defenses.
The North Hall ground game helped the Trojans pull out of a back-and-forth first half and kept them tied for the 7-AAA lead with Buford and White County, also both undefeated in league play.
Trojans quarterback Andrew Smith exploded for 226 yards rushing on 13 attempts -- 17.3 yards per carry -- scoring twice on the ground while also hooking up with Isaac Seid for a 40-yard touchdown pass. The senior signal caller was one of three backs to finish in triple digits rushing, as Zac Little (180 yards, 3 TDs) and Brannon Dyer (105 yards, TD) also ripped off several big runs.
Thanks to a potent East Hall passing attack, North Hall needed almost every one of those yards.
Vikings quarterback Devin Watson helped East Hall (3-3, 0-3) keep the pressure on with four touchdowns on the night, completing 36 of 54 passes for 331 yards and a score while also rushing for 39 yards and three touchdowns.
Watson completed passes to seven different receivers on the night, including eight receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown for Milton Whelchel. Dre Brawner also caught eight passes for 66 yards, while Junior Lee grabbed seven passes for 52 yards.
The Vikings grabbed the lead on a 1-yard run from Watson 5:58 into the contest, but North Hall responded with two explosive plays, Smith hitting Seid for the 40-yard score and Dyer breaking loose for an 89-yard touchdown run.
Not to be outdone, Whelchel fired back with an 89-yard kickoff return, and though the point after attempt failed, East Hall trailed just 14-13 after the first quarter.
It was just the start of the fireworks, however.
The Trojans forged ahead early in the second quarter on a 55-yard touchdown scamper from Little and a 79-yard run from Smith for a 28-13 lead. The scores sandwiched an East Hall fumble deep in North Hall territory that the Trojans made the most of, yet the Vikings continued to battle, and Watson found Whelchel for a 19-yard scoring strike with 55 seconds left in the half.
North Hall came up with another big play, however, taking the momentum into the locker room when Little fought his way into the end zone as time expired on a 24-yard touchdown run for a 35-19 lead at the interval.
A relatively quiet third quarter saw the Trojans extend their lead to 42-19, Smith scoring again. Little's nine-yard run made it 49-19 with 7:59 left to play.
East Hall wasn't finished, putting together two fourth quarter scores, but North Hall's work had already told. The Trojans will travel to face Fannin County next week in Blue Ridge.
The Vikings, meanwhile, will take a bye before facing West Hall on Oct. 18.
East Hall has dropped all three region contests by an average of just 11 points.
East Hall....14...21....7....14 -- 56
North Hall...13....6....0....12 -- 31
EHHS -- Watson 1 run (Canizares kick) 5:58 7-0
NHHS -- Seid 40 pass from Smith (Dennis kick) 3:51, 7-7
NHHS -- Dyer 89 run (Dennis kick) :57, 7-14
EHHS -- Whelchel 89 kickoff return (kick failed) :45, 13-14
NHHS -- Little 55 run (Dennis kick) 10:33, 13-21
NHHS -- Smith 79 run (Dennis kick) 4:59, 13-28
EHHS -- Whelchel 19 pass from Watson (pass failed) :55, 19-28
NHHS -- Little 24 run (Dennis kick) :00, 19-35
NHHS -- Smith 14 run (Dennis kick) 4:26, 19-42
NHHS -- Little 9 run (Dennis kick) 7:59, 19-49
EHHS -- Watson 2 run (pass failed) 5:21, 25-49
NHHS -- Cape 40 run ((Dennis kick) 3:21, 25-56
EHHS -- Watson 7 run (pass failed) 1:04, 31-56