GAINESVILLE — The visiting team normally has the advantage in White County-North Hall rivalry -- not this year.
North Hall (4-2, 2-0 Region 7-3A) broke the years-old trend to get its first win at The Brickyard, in almost a decade, over White County, 51-20. The win also gives the Trojans a one-game edge in the rival series, 25-24.
On the stat sheet, the first half belonged to North Hall, however, the score read 13-7 Trojans after two quarters. The Warriors (1-5, 0-2 Region 7-3A) had 5 yards of total offense and didn't have a first down in that first half, however junior Darius Cannon put the team on his back with a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown. That was the only positive the Warriors could get from that rough first half.
On North Hall's side, they had 188 yards of total offense with fullback Kevin Rochester once again carrying the load for them. He ran for 103 yards and a touchdown and his quarterback, Bradford Puryear, added 51 yards and a touchdown of his own. After all that though, they only had 13 points to show for it.
"I felt like we had control of the game in the first half, but when you have about 60 yards of penalties in the first half, they're drive killers." North Hall coach David Bishop said. "We had the opportunity to score four times in the first half, but we came out with two."
Both teams came out firing in the second half, however.
On one of the first few plays of the half, freshman quarterback Tripp Nix hit Cannon for a 69-yard touchdown. They had had trouble with the deep ball up until that point but were finally able to connect on that long touchdown pass.
Rochester wasn't going to let that one pass as he went 72 yards on the first play of North Hall's first second-half possession. And within less than two minutes, it was a 20-14 game in the Trojan's favor.
After missing an extra point and a field goal, North Hall's Luke Brown redeemed himself by kicking a 40-yard field goal to add to the Trojan's lead.
After it looked like North Hall's defense was going to make another stop, Nix hit Cannon for his third touchdown of the night, this one from 73 yards out. But whenever it looked like White County was knocking on the door, the Trojans answered.
On the following kickoff, All-Access Team linebacker Jeremiah Telander returned the kickoff for a touchdown. He decided that wasn't enough though as he picked off Tripp Nix and took it back for a touchdown on the Warriors' next drive. At that point, in the span of a few minutes, it was a 37-20 ballgame at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
After Bradford Puryear intercepted Nix a few plays later, sophomore running back Hunter Riley got in on the action with a 25-yard rushing score. Rochester added his third touchdown of the game off of a run of 57 yards. That was his last carry and the last score of the game for either side.
Overall, Rochester finished with 285 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
"Kevin is just a salt-of-the-earth kid, he's as good a kid as you have around here," Bishop said. "You wanna see that kid have success, and right now, he's our workhorse."
For White County, Nix ended with 235 yards passing with two touchdowns along with two interceptions. Senior Silas Mulligan led the way on the ground with 14 carries for 50 yards. Sophomore Ryan Fowler added 45 yards off of 5 rushes. This loss puts the Warriors at 1-5 on the year and 0-2 in region play.
Bishop said the focus returns to getting healthy and continue to rep the young players this week in preparation for an improving Lumpkin County.
"Just trying to get our kids healthy, work on our halfback game, and that's what has been a goal for the last four weeks, because we've just been moving kids in and out of the order, so that's a big play, we've gotta be able to run our buck sweep and run it well. Lotta young kids stepping up, I think we had about six sophomores on the field [on] either side of the ball at one time tonight, and they're just showing that they have the ability to make plays."