clear
Wednesday July 1st, 2015 12:54AM

Christmas stepping away from towering legacy at North Hall

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
GAINESVILLE -- Just how big is the legacy Bob Christmas created at North Hall?

Ask one of his former players.

"He is North Hall football," said Chris Haynes, who was a senior lineman on Christmas' first team with the Trojans in 2001 and is now an assistant coach at the school. "He showed us an entirely different world and what it meant to be a real football team."

Trojans football languished for much of the 40-plus years prior to Christmas' arrival, going 124-322, so the announcement that the coach is leaving the school after 13 successful seasons that included 106 wins and two state semifinal appearances provided plenty of pause for all parties involved.

"I suppose I'm like the entire community here: I'd love to see him stay, but I know this is a great opportunity for him and his family, so I'm happy for him too," North Hall athletic director Richard Crumley said.

Christmas too says he will be leaving a special place.

"In all my years of coaching this has been the most rewarding 13 years I have had," said Christmas, a 38-year coaching veteran, 26 of them in the state of Georgia. "The people here have been great, and I've loved being here. But after weighing a lot of things, this move just added up for me."

Christmas is returning to lead one of his former programs in Jefferson Forest High School, located in Forest, Va., where Christmas won state championships in 1992 and '93.

"(The program is) kind of down now, but when the job came open, I had a lot of people contacting me about it," Christmas said. "And I have two daughters in Virginia and a son in Richmond, plus my grandkids, and the offer was pretty attractive."

As he showed with North Hall, Christmas has no problem turning around struggling programs.

The Trojans were coming off a 0-10 campaign when Christmas arrived for the 2001 season. He was also the third coach in three seasons for a North Hall team that former players remember as rudderless.

"There really wasn't a program here then," Hayes said. "I remember as a sophomore there was me and maybe six-seven upperclassmen meeting up to lift weights in the preseason. And with all the coaching changes there was no time for continuity. I think they were calling us the coaching graveyard before coach Christmas got here."

Hayes says that ended as early as Christmas' first team meeting.

"I bought in hook, line and sinker from the first time he talked with us," Hayes said. "We went from just hoping and praying we'd get better to, 'This is what we're going to do, and this is how we're going to get there.' His leadership got us to buy in immediately, and he provided the program with discipline."

Even in the face of a 0-9 start to his first campaign, Christmas' charges maintained their enthusiasm and drive -- which paid off with a 35-12 win over an eight-win Madison County in the season finale. In 2002, Christmas led the Trojans to their first state playoff berth.

"We were so excited that all the seniors (from 2001) got in our cars and drove to Cedartown to support the team in that first round game," Hayes said.

That excitement only grew as North Hall became a playoff regular, including state semifinal berths in 2007 and 2012. The Trojans also reached the quarterfinals in 2004 and '06 and won region championships in '04, '06, '07 and '12, going 106-46 over the 13-year span.

Christmas says the bedrock of that success was laid with the hard work and determination of his players and coaching staff.

"We built this program on hard work," said Christmas, who has won 247 games over his career as a head coach. "The Men of Summer (weight training) program was a huge part of it, and we were just a physical football team both sides of the ball. We got the kids believing in themselves and believing in the process."

Utilizing a punishing ground game initially centered around the wing-T, which, two seasons ago, gave way to the wishbone, North Hall ran over and through opposing teams while also playing a physical brand of attacking defense.

"As coaches we set a high standard and expected them to live up that standard," Christmas said. "And my coaching staff at North Hall being together so long was a big piece of the puzzle. I can't imagine a better staff than what I have here."

A key piece of that staff, longtime defensive coordinator Ronnie Eaves, is retiring and will return to his native Mississippi. Christmas says no other coaches accompany him to Virginia -- now Crumley is tasked with finding a new man to lead that group.

"Coach Christmas built something special here, and I think there will be a lot of interest in the position," said Crumley, who hopes to have someone in place before spring practice starts. "We want to do our due diligence. We want to make sure we move as fast as possible without rushing things. It's a daunting task, but it's exciting too."

That said Crumley knows the next Trojans head coach will have big shoes to fill.

"To replace someone who means what he meant to us will be difficult," Crumley said. "We would be fortunate to find another Bob Christmas, but we're going to look for the same qualities he brought to us."

Those qualities proved successful indeed, even outstripping the high standards Christmas himself set down in 2001.

"We probably exceeded the expectations I had when I first got here," Christmas said. "We talked about winning state, which we never did, but we did some pretty special things here, and it has been an incredible experience."

-- NOTE: Christmas had the longest tenure of any current Hall County-based football coach. Gainesville's Bruce Miller now owns the longest active streak at 12 seasons. Chestatee's Stan Luttrell is next in line with eight straight seasons.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 6 months ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 5 months ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 5 months ago )
Sports
Lanierland boys semifinals: Unbeatens Johnson, Red Elephants roll into finals
Both Gainesville and Johnson powered their way into the Lanierland Tournament finals on Monday. The two undefeated teams will meet Tuesday for the title at 8:30 p.m. at Chestatee.
10:01AM ( 6 months ago )
Lanierland girls semifinals: GHS, Lady Falcons advance to finals <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Flowery Branch and Gainesville each took impressive wins Monday to advance to the Lanierland Tournament finals...
10:00AM ( 6 months ago )
Girls basketball: Lady Tigers advance to Pickens Holiday finals
The Dawson County girls basketball advanced to the finals of the Pickens Holiday Classic after an 81-54 win over Riverwood Monday.
11:48PM ( 6 months ago )
High School Sports
FCA East-West contest gives one more shot for area stars to shine <b>(VIDEO)</b>
Talk to the coaches, players and fans lucky enough to take part on Friday, and it
12:13PM ( 6 months ago )
High School Football 2014: A special season brings with it many firsts
The FCA East-West All-Star Game wraps up the 2014 campaign tonight in Gainesville. And oh what a season it has been...
9:30PM ( 6 months ago )
Four area teams finish season ranked inside top 10
Four area teams ended the 2014 season ranked inside the top 10 of the Georgia Sports Writers Association Prep Football Poll.
10:55AM ( 6 months ago )
Friday Game Night
U.S. women head to WWC final with 2-0 shutout of Germany
Carli Lloyd buried a penalty kick, Hope Solo got another shutout and the United States beat top-ranked Germany 2-0 on Tuesday night to advance to the title match at the Women's World Cup.
By The Associated Press
9:23AM ( 8 hours from now )
Nats continue dominance over Braves
Jordan Zimmermann took a shutout into the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 6-1 on Tuesday night to continue their season-long dominance of the division rivalry.
By The Associated Press
11:53PM ( 1 hour ago )
Daytona offers American flags in exchange program
Daytona International Speedway will not ban the Confederate flag from track property this weekend, but will offer the American flag to those who wish to fly it on property.
By The Associated Press
10:12PM ( 2 hours ago )
Hawks' Korver expected to be ready after elbow surgery
Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver is expected to be ready for the start of training camp following surgery to remove loose bodies in his right elbow.
By The Associated Press
9:48PM ( 3 hours ago )
Garner named new girls soccer coach at Gainesville
Former Gainesville High School athlete and coach, Shelly Garner, has been named new girls soccer coach at Gainesville.
11:44PM ( 1 day ago )