GAINESVILLE — The night belonged to White County quarterback J. Ben Haynes.
The junior dual-threat field general scored a touchdown on a QB keeper with 2:39 left in the game and converted a 4th-and-2 to lead White County (3-1) to a comeback win over North Hall, 34-31, Friday night at The Brickyard.
“My quarterback’s a real competitor, and when your quarterbacks tough, your whole teams tough," White County coach Tim Cokely said. "J. Ben plays with a lot of heart.”
Haynes rushed 25 times for 125 yards and three touchdowns while passing for another 214 yards and a score. Cooper Turner caught nine passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Haynes was determined to move the chains on the Warriors' 4th-and-2 conversion, driving through a powerful North Hall defense and eventually landing just past the line to gain. That play sealed the 34-31 comeback and gave them the all-time series lead 24-23 over the Trojans.
"He's a tough rascal ... he was born and raised in White County," Cokely said. "We're just country boys. I don't think we knocked everybody off the ball, but they play with a lot of heart. It's so much fun for me to go to work and get to coach guys like him."
For North Hall (2-2), JT Fair churned out 129 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown to lead the Trojans' ground game. Cody Smith and Trey Sanders each scored a rushing touchdown.
The Warriors outgained North Hall by 107 yards, 374-267, and the Trojans turned the ball over three times.
"It was weird, you know, we played well early and didn't turn it over, then we decided to make a bunch of mistakes," Cokely said. "We're a second-half team. We try to play a lot of guys. It was nip and tuck wasn't it."
Following a North Hall (2-2) punt to the White County 37-yard line, the Warriors drove the ball 63 yards down the field and got on the scoreboard first courtesy of a Haynes 1-yard touchdown run.
The Trojans would answer quickly though, tying the game in less than two minutes. A Jacob Dickey 52-yard run set up the Trojans inside the Warriors 5-yard line, where JT Fair finished off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Coming off the Trojans score, White County would sustain a long drive resulting in another Haynes 1-yard touchdown run. His second score of the night helped the Warriors regain the lead, 14-7.
The game stayed tight until midway through the second quarter, where back-to-back 3-and-outs led to a Warriors punt deep into North Hall territory. The punt was fumbled and recovered by White County’s Silas Mulligan at the Trojans 12-yard line. North Hall would hold strong though, forcing the Warriors to settle for a 27-yard Andrew Pierce field goal.
The Trojans would again score fast off the field goal, this time taking only 45 seconds. On the second play from scrimmage, Fair took the handoff around the left end and turned on the jets past the Warrior defenders. With one man to beat, Fair made a nice cutback at the 15-yard line to run into the endzone untouched and trim the Warrior lead to 3 points. The touchdown was Fair’s second of the night, to go along with 129 yards on 12 carries and 1 reception for 29 yards.
A fumble on the ensuing kickoff would give the Trojans the ball back in plus territory at the White County 29-yard line. This time it was the Warrior defense that would hold strong keeping the Trojans out of the end zone, and after the Warriors had to settle for a Luke Brown 22-yard Field Goal, the game was knotted at 17.
Both teams would exchange possessions to open the second half before White County was able to flip the field and take advantage of the good field position. The Warriors took over at the Trojans 39-yard line, and took the lead a few minutes later on a Pierce 36-yard field goal.
Fair took the ensuing kickoff all the way to the Warriors 45-yard line, setting up the Trojans who were looking to take the lead back and Trojan quarterback Trey Sanders was determine to push his team to the lead. Sanders converted a 4th-and-9 pass to Fair down to the Warrior 4-yard line. A play later, Smith (13 carries, 47 yards) found pay dirt, give the Trojans a 24-20 advantage.
Coming off the Trojans score, the Warriors would go 3 and out forcing a punt attempt. North Hall’s Logan Hawthorne busted through the middle of the line and blocked the punt, setting up the Trojans with great field position at the Warrior 24-yard line and a chance to go up two scores.
Fair took the first down pitch 18 yards to the Warrior 6-yard line. On the next play, while trying to fight for extra yardage, Fair fumbled at the 2.
The Warriors weren’t in the clear just yet, and three plays later Fair picked off a Haynes pass and returned it 20 yards to the Warrior 11-yard line.
This time the Trojans would not be denied, and after two good runs, Sanders took the snap himself and dove forward for the 1-yard score, giving the Trojans a 31-20 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Facing an 11-point deficit, Haynes and the Warriors took over at their own 29-yard line. As efficiently as it could be done, Haynes hit Jesse Thomas (5 catches, 41 yards) for an 12-yard gain, ran for 14 yards, and then delivered a touchdown on a beautiful 45-yard deep ball to Warriors leading receiver Cooper Turner (9 catches, 143 yards, TD), all in 73 seconds to cut the deficit to 31-27.
The Warriors, riding high after a big scoring drive, stuffed the Trojans on a 3rd-and 2-at the North Hall 39 to force a punt.
One more chance proved to be all Haynes and the Warriors would need, going on an eight-play, 71-yard drive, while chewing up 4:45 on the clock.
After two 4-yard runs, the Warriors faced 3rd-and-2 at their own 37, where Haynes hit Turner for 10 yards to keep the chains moving. The next play, it was Turner again taking the ball 20 yards on a nicely executed screen pass, setting up the Warriors in plus territory. Five plays later, Haynes dropped back to pass, looked off the linebackers and ran untouched up the middle and into the end zone for the eventual game-winning score. On the drive, Haynes went 3-for-3 for 32 yards, while adding 15 yards on the ground.
After the touchdown, North Hall seemed to have one more good chance to win the game or force overtime, but the kickoff was fumbled and recovered by the Warriors where they would eventually run out the clock.
The Warriors will open Region 7-4A play next week at undefeated Marist.
“We have a challenge every week, we play in a really tough league," Cokely said. "We adopted a philosophy six, eight months ago of one week at a time, one game at a time. We’re going to enjoy this one, and we’ll get ready for Marist on Sunday.”
The Trojans will look to rebound in their Region 7-3A opener on Friday when they welcome Cherokee Bluff to the Brickyard. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
WC - Haynes 1 run (Pierce Kick), 6:46
NH – Fair 4 run (Brown Kick), 4:50
WC – Haynes 1 run (Pierce Kick), 10:20
WC – Pierce 27-yard FG, 6:27
NH – Fair 64 run (Brown Kick), 5:42
NH – Brown 22-yard FG, 2:47
WC – Pierce 36-yard FG, 6:58
NH – Smith 4 run (Brown Kick), 2:57
NH – Saunders 1 run (Brown Kick), 10:31
WC – Turner 45 pass from Haynes (Pierce Kick), 9:18
WC – Haynes 7 run (Pierce Kick), 2:39