GAINESVILLE, Ga. — North Hall's offense is running like a well-oiled machine.
The Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Region 8-4A) racked up 507 total yards of offense en route to a 49-14 win over rival East Hall (2-2, 1-1 Region 8-4A) Friday night at The Brickyard.
Tate Ruth had another impressive night with 16 carries for 163 yards and one touchdown, and Tanner Marsh dished out a school-record four passing touchdowns, along with a 10-of-13, 187-yard performance through the air and six carries for 57 yards.
"You can't talk about our offense without talking about our offensive line," North Hall coach Sean Pender said. Those guys couldn't do what they do without them. Our guys do a really good job. We put a lot on them, and so them understanding what we're trying to accomplish and working real hard at it, that's the reason why our offense does so well."
The Trojans sprinted to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter to set the tone early.
Zeke Harris picked off East Hall quarterback Jamarcus Harris on a crazy opening drive for the Vikings. The play before was also ruled an interception but was later called incomplete, setting up the third down Pick 6 by Harris to go ahead, 7-0.
"Zeke read it perfectly and jumped in front of it and got the Pick 6," Pender said.
It was one of two interceptions the Trojans nabbed on the night, both by Harris.
On the Trojans' first offensive series, it didn't take long to get clicking in the right direction, thanks to Ruth, who scampered 52 yards on the drive's first play for pay dirt.
"He hit that quick trap and took it to the house," Pender said about the run. "So that was nice to see him get a run like that because he always gets those tough yards for us."
But it wasn't all bad for East Hall. The Vikings, behind quarterback Jamarcus Harrison and wide receiver Chasen Jones, rallied the Vikings to within one touchdown twice in the first half, including on the team's third drive, marching 80 yards for the score.
Harrison (15-of-30 passing for 211 yards and two touchdowns, and 17 rushes for 42 yards) hit Jones twice, a 14-yard pass and a 37-yard pass to drive the Vikings inside Trojan territory. Harrison also turned what could have been a disastrous fumble into a 14-yard gain to keep the drive alive. Later on, East Hall fought back on a holding penalty and received some help from North Hall on a pass interference call that moved the ball to the Trojan seven-yard line. On the next play, Harrison hit Jones (11-157 yards receiving, one TD) on a slant pass in the end zone for the touchdown, cutting the lead in half, 14-7.
The Viking defense also forced the Trojans to turn the ball over on downs on their next possession, thanks to Caden Daniels, who dropped Marsh one yard short of the first down.
The Vikings, however, couldn't cash in the good field position, giving the Trojans back, allowing them to march down the field 88 yards for a score. North Hall converted a fourth-and-two to keep the drive alive in the opening minutes of the second quarter. Marsh sprinted 18 yards down to the East Hall 22, and three plays later, Marsh danced across the goal line from 13 yards out and a 21-7 advantage with 10:26 left in the half.
"A lot of Tanner's inside runs were his checks," Pender said about Marsh. "He was just being patient and running the football between the tackles because that's what they were giving us. When it was time to throw, he did well."
The Vikings didn't pack it in, though, taking the next possession 74 yards, including two big plays, a 42-yard pass to Jevon Harrison and a 14-yard run by Jamarcus Harrison. Jamarcus Harrison hit Jevon Harrison one play later on a nine-yard pass to the back of the end zone to close the gap, 21-14.
North Hall added another score late in the half, a nine-yard pass to Ryals Puryear for a 28-14 lead with 2:30 to go, but it gave the Vikings plenty of time to put a drive together and potentially take the momentum into the locker room.
However, Zeke Harris said not-so-fast. After the Vikings drove down inside Trojan territory, Jamarcus Harrison saw Jones come open and fired the pass down the center of the field; Harris broke in front, snatched it out of the air, and returned it to the East Hall 32-yard line as time expired in the first half.
"We scored just a little too quick and gave them too much time," Pender said. "The quarterback saw a guy busting open and thought he was going to be open and threw it. Zeke undercut it and made the pick. That was a great athletic play by Zeke, and he almost ran it all the way back."
Despite four penalties on the opening drive of the second half -- six straight penalties -- and allowing East Hall to convert a wild fake punt into a first down, the Trojans calmed down on the second drive of the half when Marsh hit Ty Kemp on a 29-yard touchdown pass with 2:13 left in the third quarter, pushing the lead out of hand, 35-14.
They would add two more scores, a 59-yard pass and a 39-yard pass to Korbyn Sosebee, who was wide-open on both plays, to finish the night. Sosebee finished with three catches for 105 yards.
The Trojans will travel to Cherokee Bluff in a huge Region 8-4A battle next week.
"You can throw out the record," Pender said. "Those don't matter when it comes to us and Cherokee Bluff. We're going to war. It's going to be a war next week, so buckle up. It's going to be a fight. If we're not ready when we go in there, we're going to get our butt beat. Getting a win at Cherokee Bluff, especially for us, is going to be extremely difficult."