Thursday October 19th, 2017 5:10AM

Trojans, Warriors ready to be tested in key 7-AAA battle

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
  Contact Editor
CLEVELAND -- North Hall coach Bob Christmas was not quite ready to proclaim his current team the program's best ever. Especially since they're only six games into the season.

White County coach Bob Ballard, however, said six games was all he needed to decide.

"After watching film, I think it may be the best team they've ever had," Ballard said. "They've been virtually unstoppable on offense and defensively they may be as quick as I've ever seen them. It's going to be a tall order for us."

"I don't know if this is our best team ever. At least not yet," Christmas said. "The 2004 and 2007 teams had some big-time players that really carried us and those teams did some special things. But (this year's team) is a real team in that there are no superstars. They play very well as a unit. They have potential to be one of the best. We'll have to see how they finish."

The two coaches may not have agreed on that issue, but they both agreed that Friday night's annual border war may be the biggest game of the season so far for both squads.

Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on WDUN 102.9 FM.

The Warriors (4-2, 2-1 Region 7-AAA) need a win to keep pace in the standings after being run over by No. 1 Buford, 42-6, last week. The Class AAA fourth-ranked Trojans (6-0, 3-0) also need a win to keep pace with the Wolves and keep their season-ending showdown for the region title in tact.

"I've seen White County and they are a solid football team," Christmas said. "They have some really good skilled guys and they play good defense. They made Buford work hard for their points last week."

Quarterback AJ Vandiver has led White County and scored the Warriors' only touchdown last week against Buford. Ballard said one win against either North Hall, West Hall, or Banks County may be just enough to get them into the playoffs. If they win out, second place is possible.

"We still kind of control our own destiny," Ballard said. "We don't have an easy game left. But hopefully we can find a way to get a win or two."

The Trojans, however, may have arguably the best player in Region 7-AAA in senior quarterback Andrew Smith, who recently committed to the Air Force Academy.

"You have to slow down No. 14 (Smith) if you have any chance of stopping North Hall," Ballard said. "I don't think you can stop him, but if you stop a play here or there then maybe you get them into a long third down. It's going to be another huge challenge for us."

Christmas said Smith has been the catalyst for his offense rolling up huge numbers so far. The Trojans are averaging 51 points and more than 300 yards rushing a game.

But, as always, Christmas said there's room for improvement.

"Andrew is a special player," Christmas said. "He has a total grasp of our offense and runs it as well as anyone we've ever had here. More importantly, he's been a tremendous leader on the field for us.

"He doesn't get rattled and makes the people around him better. That's what you want out of your quarterback. But, he can get better. This team can still get better and that's what we've striving to do every week."

Christmas said he, too, is expecting a challenge down the stretch. He is also looking to see how his team responds as the pressure builds in the stretch run.

"I think we're really about to find out just how good this team is over the next few weeks," Christmas said. "I want to see how our kids respond to the challenges ahead. (White County) is a tough place to play. I would like to see a little more passion and a little more emotion as we get closer to the end of the season."

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
-- WHERE: White County Stadium, Cleveland
-- RADIO: 1029 FM
-- NORTH HALL (6-0, 3-0 Region 7-AAA): Defeated Fannin County 62-7 last week. The Trojans are ranked No. 4 in Class AAA.
-- WHITE COUNTY (4-2, 2-1 Region 7-AAA): Lost 42-6 to No. 1 Buford last week.
-- HISTORY: North Hall won 42-7 last year. The Trojans lead the series 21-20 going back to 1957. . .While the series is even wins-wise, it has been a streaky series. North Hall has won 18 of the last 19 meetings going back to 1988. White County won 19 of the first 22 meetings between 1957 and 1987. The last win in the series for White County was in 2010. . .The Trojans offense is running on all cylinders averaging 51 ppg. Defensively they are allowing 16.5 ppg. . .The White County offense has been struggling of late. After averaging 38 ppg in their first three games, the Warriors have scored just 12 total points in their last three games. Defensively they are allowing 16.5 ppg. . .A win for the Trojans will give them just their fourth-ever 7-0 start. The also started 7-0 in 2012, 2007, and 2004.
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