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Clausen: Gainesville, Flowery Branch tops heading into big game

POSTED: November 9, 2008 5:00 a.m.

At the end of week 10 the Hall County football teams have created the following power ratings. As the season goes on I take into consideration the following criteria: 1) Head to head competitions; 2) win/loss record; 3) ratio of points scored against points allowed; 4) opponents win/loss percentage.

We have seen some great high school football in Hall County these past 10 weeks, and tomorrow night we will find out whether the Red Elephants or the Falcons have this year’s best football team. There is absolutely no question these two teams are one and two, but who’s number 1?

After studying football stats for 15 seasons in the National Football League and eight seasons at Ohio State and William and Mary we found some stats were more important than others. Each week I’ve been looking inside the stats and tring to highlight the ones which separate the strong teams from the weaker teams.

1. Gainesville (9-0)

Average Points Scored 39.44: Average Points Allowed 8.22: Power Rating 4.80:

Based upon what we have seen through nine games, I don’t have any question in my mind that the Red Elephant’s power rating, plus comparative scores, let’s them enter tomorrow’s contest at Bobby Gruhn against Flowery Branch as the favorite. From Week 1, when Gainesville dominated a very experienced Chestatee team in a 35-0 shut out, to last Friday night’s 68-28 victory over a very spirited Johnson team, the 2008 Gainesville team has not only been good and competitive, but dominating. I saw the Johnson game last Friday night and Johnson was well prepared and played every play hard. At times, early in the game, you wondered if they might pull an upset. Gainesville just kept grinding away, wearing down the Knights, holding a fine Knights running game to 2.27 yards per attempt. The Gainesville smothering defense forced four fumbles and recovered three of them. Gainesville’s offense was awesome averaging 10.81 yards per carry, while completing 64 percent of its passes to four different receivers, an average of 12.5 yards per pass attempt. Nobody I have seen from Game 1 to Game 9 has played consistently better defense than Gainesville. The 2008 Gainesville team is better than the 2007 team which lost to the Falcons for three reasons: 1) They have made QB running a major part of its offense; 2) In 2007, they were a primarily sophomore offensive line, this year those same players are stronger, more physical and play with more confidence and; 3) The defense has one more year under its belt running the 3-4 defense and nobody is running it better.

2. Flowery Branch (8-1)

Average Points Scored 37: Average Points Allowed 11.44: Power Rating 3.23:

The Falcons are coming off an open date and have had two weeks to prepare for the “biggest” game of the season”. The Falcons only loss came in the opening week of the season when they lost to a fine Stephens County team in Toccoa. Pass defense breakdown cost them in that game. Since that time Flowery Branch’s pass defense has been strong; they are willing to give up some yardage, but they are extremely tough to hit the big play on. Several things have happened to Flowery Branch during the course of the season which has allowed them to enter tomorrow night’s game at its best. Conner Shaw, who is playing his first year as the starting QB, has gotten better each week at executing the Flowery Branch offense. His execution is sharp and his decision making on the option is more precise. The Branch has probably the best two defensive linemen in North Georgia in Daniel Drummond and Izaan Cross, they may be able to force Blake Sims into making faster throwing decisions than he is accustomed to. Like a lot of big games, turnover ratios could be the deciding factor, and the Branch’s defense has exceptional stats at forcing both interceptions and fumbles. Get to Bobby Gruhn early, parking is going to be tough.

3. North Hall (6-3)

Average Points Scored 28: Average Points Allowed 19.78: Power Rating 1.42:

The North Hall Trojans have been an improving football team each week as Gilmer found out last Friday night in Ellijay. North Hall’s Wing-T offense scored 53 points against the Bobcats. The North Hall Wing-T is tough for today’s high school football teams to prepare for in one week, since most teams they play week in and week out are using a form of the spread offense. The Wing-T, unlike the spread, is about double teams, traps, misdirection and a bootleg passing game coming off of play action. North Hall’s defensive stats have improved as the offense has started to eat up more of the clock. The last three weeks North Hall has really started to click, they have averaged 51.02 points per game, while the defense has only yielded an average of 10.33 points per game. During these three weeks, Blayne Gilmer’s passing game has complimented the running of Avery Nix, Matt Christmas, Peyton Wilhoite and Graham Duncan. Tomorrow night the Trojans travel to Dahlonega to take on Lumpkin County. The Trojans have a home game in the first round of the state playoffs the following Friday.

4. Chestatee (4-5)

Average Points Scored 30.56: Average Points Allowed 26: Power Rating 1.18:

The War Eagles are coming off a tough overtime loss to a fine West Forsyth football team. Chestatee had done a pretty good job of controlling the Wolverines’ running game, holding them to 4.24 yards per rushing attempt. It looked early like Chestatee was going to be in control of the game, as they had a 20-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. However, breakdowns in pass defense allowed the Wolverines back in the ball game, as they rolled up an impressive 372 yards in the air. The Chestatee offense continued to show more balance averaging 5.58 yards per carry, while Ethan Souther had a fine game passing. He completed 77 percent of his passes and averaged a very strong 16.78 yards per pass attempt. Justin Byers had seven receptions for 151 yards and one  touchdown. Chase Vasser once again led the War Eagles in tackles with 20. Chestatee scored first in the overtime, but when West Forsyth scored a touchdown on their only possession, the Wolverines scored on a successful 2-point conversion to win in overtime.
Tomorrow night the War Eagles finish the season hosting a very good Creekview team. This is a game that is going to require a top defensive effort, paired with Chestatee’s usual strong and balanced offense in order to win.

5. West Hall (5-4)

Average Points Scored 22.75: Average Points Allowed 28.5: Power Rating 0.79:

The Spartans started to show some balance on offense to go with their superb passing game this past Friday against East Hall. The Spartans ran the ball 30 times and averaged 4.17 yards per carry; not great numbers, but enough that they made the defense respect the run. Shunquez Stephens’ passing game was solid, completing 74 percent of his pass attempts, while spreading the ball to five different receivers. Shunquez Stephens averaged 9.16 yards per pass attempt. Terrell Penland and Rodney Gibson each caught four passes. Gibson led the way with 19.5 yards per completion. Marquise Stephens was the featured runner carrying the ball 20 times for 117 yards, an average of 5.85 yards per attempt. The Spartan defense put up solid numbers holding the East Hall Vikings to 3.93 yards per rush and 5.91 yards per pass attempt. West Hall can finish the season with a winning record with a great effort tomorrow night against West Forsyth. It would be a great way for the 2008 Spartans to end the season.

6. Johnson (2-8)

Average Points Scored 22.5: Average Points Allowed 37.7: Power Rating .60:

The Johnson Knights showed up well prepared to take on Hall County’s best football team last Friday night. Forget the score, this Knights team left it all on the field in a brave effort in a game against a team which had more depth and more maturity. I think anybody who saw the game, like I did last Friday night, had to feel early in the game that Johnson was ready to pull an upset if the breaks went its way. Both its effort and execution was good, but the Red Elephants had much more depth, played more guys, and had more players with more experience. Early in the game, an alert Johnson team turned a couple of takeaways into touchdowns. Gainesville held the fine Johnson running game to 2.3 yards per rush. The Red Elephants defense does that to everybody, nobody has found the key to running on Gainesville’s swarming 3-4 defense.
In spite of a fine effort, none of the Knights runners had impressive stats. The Johnson passing game, led by QB Anthony Prophet, put up good numbers against a good pass defense. Prophet completed 62 percent of his pass attempts and averaged a very respectable 11 yards per attempt. Chris Cannon, Mick Shannon and Mantevius Rucker each had multiple catches against the Gainesville pass defense. Johnson lacks the maturity and depth it needs to be competitive, but they are not in the least lacking courage, preparation or effort.

7. East Hall (1-8)

Average Points Scored 12.33: Average Points Allowed 32: Power Rating 0.39:

East Hall lost a very competitive game to the West Hall Spartans last Friday night. East Hall had 319 yards of total offense to the Spartans 299. The Vikings were outscored 30-24, and East Hall’s and West Hall’s running game numbers were almost equal. East Hall averaged 3.93 yards per carry, while its defense yielded 4.17 yards per carry. It was on pass offense and pass defense we find the margin of victory for West Hall, East Hall averaged just 5.91 yards per pass attempt, while their defense gave up 9.16 yards per pass attempt.
West Hall also had an advantage on consistency, completing 74 percent of its passes while the Vikings completed only 44 percent of their pass attempts. Corey Richardson had a solid night running the ball, averaging 4.3 per carry on 10 attempts, while Desman Gardner, running from the QB position, averaged 5.4 yards per carry on 10 attempts. Desman Gardner also found receivers Andrew Ivestor, Chaz Cheeks and Kiante Young for some key receptions. I predict a win tomorrow night when these young Vikings travel to Jasper to play Pickens County, it would be a fitting way for them to end the 2008 season.



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