Tuesday September 26th, 2017 5:51PM

Chestatee and North Hall ready to rumble in the trenches tonight (Video)

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
  Contact Editor
GAINESVILLE -- Chestatee and North Hall tasted some pretty sweet success last season, and the two programs have even sweeter things on their collective minds in 2013.

One of the bigger treats of the season will be up for grabs in week one, however, as the two rivals face off tonight at The Brickyard.

It is a victory North Hall has tasted many times, winning 10 of the 11 contests played between foes located a mere 7.2 miles away from each other.

But that doesn't mean the Trojans -- who are looking to surpass last season's 11-3 mark and Class AAA semifinal appearance -- take it for granted.

"It's always fun to play Chestatee," North Hall senior lineman Thomas Marchman said. "They're right next door. A lot of the guys know each other, and it's always a fun atmosphere and big game."

Certainly Chestatee knows what this contest could mean for the War Eagles, especially if they were to snare their first victory since 2005.

Earlier this week, Access North sports editor Morgan Lee caught up with members of both programs to talk about Friday's showdown at The Brickyard, as well as the season ahead. To watch a video presentation with both teams, click "play" on the box to the right. Also, click here for a look at the tonight's other games.

"It's real exciting," Chestatee defensive end/tight end Khalil Cantrell said. "We haven't beaten them so far but I hope to do that my senior year."

Thanks to a large senior class that built plenty of confidence during last season's 8-3 march to a state playoff berth -- the first Chestatee had ever hosted -- the War Eagles feel they have the right mix to make some history tonight on their rivals' home turf.

And not just because of what Chestatee showed 2012.

"We went in to offseason with a lot of confidence. These guys know last year was a great year, but this team will be defined by what they do this year," War Eagles coach Stan Luttrell said. "This team has to have its identity. We're looking to build off that and confidence of last year."

Much of that identity will be based around a corps of physical linemen -- like 2012 All-Region 8-AAAA performers Khalil Cantrell and Cody Humphries. Blake Buffington, Zac Cheshire, Tray Bryant, William Fayson and Kris Pierce will also play key roles at running back and linebacker.

"This is the first time in eight years that we've had so many guys in the backfield touching the ball," said Luttrell, whose team lost standout back A.J. Sijiye before the season to a knee injury. "We've got five-six guys that can get the job done. Those guys all play defense and play vital roles for us. They fit well into our scheme on offense and defense. And I'm excited to see those guys play on both sides of ball."

Just down the road, Trojans coach Bob Christmas can point to a very similar strength, as his Trojans return a group of linemen that could well dominate much of the Region 7-AAA schedule in 2013. They pave the way for a fleet-footed quarterback in Andrew Smith and a number of capable backs in the Trojans' wishbone attack -- Brannon Dyer ran for 109 yards and two touchdowns in last week's scrimmage game win over Salem, Va.

"I think they sense how good they can be. But they also know they've got to work every day," Christmas said. "They know you never stay the same -- you're either getting better or backsliding. It's been fun to coach them, and I've got a lot of confidence them because of their approach."

Their size and experience certainly doesn't hurt either, including seniors Marchman (6-foot-4, 260 pounds), Dylan Truelove (6-3, 260), Russell Gillespie, Justin Bacus, Cole Strickland and Avery Rogers, along with junior Hayden Hughes manning the trenches for North Hall.

In other words, expect a lot of big collisions between big players tonight.

"I think it's going to be match-up of fronts," Christmas said. "Their offense presents a lot of problems. And they've got hard-nosed kids that run hard. They're well-coached, and I was impressed by what I saw at their scrimmage."

Luttrell is certainly prepping for a slug-fest inside.

"They're big and physical and so are we," Luttrell said. "I think it's going to be an old-school game. Both teams are well coached. I think it's going to be physical game, and it's going to come down to who makes the least mistakes and execution."

That was certainly the case last season, when the two foes combined for seven turnovers -- the biggest difference coming in the fact the Trojans scored 17 points off three of the War Eagles' giveaways in a 32-20 win.

"We had a letdown last year against them in game one, so we feel like we have something to prove," Chestatee's Cheshire said.

And Smith says his Trojans will be ready for that.

"They always play tough and work hard. We're looking for it to be a tough physical game, with both teams running the ball a lot," Smith said. "We like our chances, but we know we'll have to play very good."

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
-- WHERE: The Brickyard, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM
-- CHESTATEE (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-AAAA): The War Eagles finished 8-3 in 2012.
-- NORTH HALL (0-0, 0-0 Region 7-AAA): The Trojans finished 11-3 in 2012. North Hall is ranked No. 7 in Class AAA.
-- HISTORY: North Hall won the last meeting 32-20 in 2012. The Trojans lead the series 10-1.
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