Breaking the curse
By Nick Nunn
The first half of last week’s playoff game was hard-fought, to say the least.
Despite some trouble in the first half, the Bulldogs came out strong in the latter parts of the game to grapple the lead from the Warriors, move ahead, and never look back.
However, unlike most of the games so far this year, there wasn’t an air of confidence about the matchup in the hours leading up to the opening kickoff.
“The feeling was one of uneasiness before the game,” said Head Coach Bill Malone. “I was concerned with what our boys’ outlook on the game was.”
“To put it in a nutshell, I think that we had this idea that there was some type of jinx on us in the first round of the playoffs.”
As laughable as that might sound – initially – there is some evidence that might feed that fear in the minds of the coaches and athletes, who, more often than not, are a superstitious lot.
“We’ve been there the past couple of year with the identical record,” reminded Malone.
“I don’t know how much our boys believed that we would go out and win the ballgame.”
If that was the case, then that attitude visibly affected the play on the field.
Trailing by seven points at halftime, Coach Malone knew that the team would need to be reminded that they are better than how they played in the first half.
“When we came in at halftime, we had very much the same talk that we had with Elbert County, which was, ‘look guys, we haven’t played well at all, and it is still 7-14.’”
The game turned around in the third quarter, and Coach Malone attributes the team’s performance to their ability to break the unease.
“I think that the key to changing that mood was kicking the field goal to make it 10-14. It was at that point that the sideline came alive.”
Along with the team, the crowd also came alive in the second half, and their excitement bordered on a fever pitch in the last minutes of the game, when it erupted in jubilation at seeing Morgan County recover the fumble with four seconds to go.
Although those in attendance were enthusiastic, there weren’t as many fans in the stands as anyone had hoped for.
“I had no idea where everyone was,” said Malone about the scant showing. “And it was as disheartening to our kids as I think I’ve seen.”
“That very well could have contributed to that low morale. I hope we’ll have a crowd up in Gainesville.”
Turning to the North Hall Trojans, Coach Malone sees a lot of similarities between their formations and those that make up the standard operating procedure for the Bulldogs.
“They base off the same defense we do, which is a regular 5-2, and they’re probably the first team this year that’s had their kids going both ways or sharing time as we do.”
“They run a wishbone offense and throw it as much as we throw it, but their completions remind me of when Georgia Tech or Georgia Southern completes a pass – it is usually a big play.”
Coach Malone feels that the team will be fine as long as they play their assignments, have faith in themselves, and do what they have been doing so far this season, since that is what got them here.
From Madison, take Hwy. 441 north towards Athens. Take Loop 10 in Athens and exit onto Hwy 129/Prince Avenue. Take Hwy 129 north towards Jefferson/Gainesville until reaching Gainesville. In downtown Gainesville, continue on Hwy 11 (straight), and then veer left on Hwy 60 approximately 2 miles later. Continue on Hwy 60 for 5 miles, then turn right on Hwy 283/Mt Vernon Rd. Continue 4.5 miles. North Hall High School will be on the left.
Printed in the November 22, 2012 edition