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High School Football: Gainesville tops weekly power rankings

POSTED: September 7, 2008 5:01 a.m.

At the end of Week 1 the Hall County football players 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 vs. points allowed; 4) opponents win/loss percentage.
This week we rated the teams on the ratio of points scored against points allowed. In Week 1 that does not mean very much because at this time we don’t really know how strong the opponents are or will be. For example Stephens County may be one of the very best AAA teams in the state, but we don’t know for sure.

We (the Hall County football fans) have seen just one-tenth of the season. Two of the great lessons of competitive sports are learning to bounce back from defeat and to be humble in victory, one is just as important as the other. These proud young men have chosen to test their skills, their discipline and teamwork in front of thousands of people every Friday night. Please let me be among those who tips his hat to each one of them.

After studying football stats for 15 seasons in the National Football League and eight seasons at Ohio State and William & Mary, we found some stats were more important than others. Each week I will look inside the stats and try and highlight the ones which separate the strong teams from the weaker teams.

1. Gainesville (1-0)

Average Points Scored 35: Average Points Allowed 0: Power Rating 35.0

I saw the Gainesville-Chestatee game. I went to it thinking it should be a very close contest. Chestatee had upset Gainesville last year 39-19. Chestatee has the most senior-laden team in the region, and has a roster loaded with two- and three-year starters.

I knew Gainesville would be ready to play a great game, but I was not sure if it had the better team.

Last year Gainesville had a very good team; it was competitive against any team in the region, but it was starting a number of young players in their front seven on defense and on its offensive line. I knew Gainesville had a new quarterback, and when running the spread offense, an above average QB will get you beat.

You need, in my opinion, an exceptional QB to be really good. He must not only be an accurate passer, he needs to be a running threat. Gainesville had also lost the best two receivers in Hall County, Gerald Ford and Tyler Adetona, plus one of Hall County’s most competitive running backs in Kendrick Harris.

I was absolutely not prepared for the game I saw. Blake Sims at QB gave Gainesville just what it needed. Sims completed 90 percent of his passes, averaged almost 15 yards per pass attempt and spread the ball to eight different receivers. Plus, he showed that in spite of the fact that he is a pass first QB, he can and will run the football.

Led by junior T. J. Jones, the Gainesville receivers showed exceptional skill. As good as the skill guys were, it was the men in the trenches on both sides of the ball who were dominating the game.

Gainesville’s 3-4 defense is aggressive and mobile, and was perfectly prepared for an offense we are going to find in coming weeks that is very difficult to defense.

I hesitate to name many names of the men up front without looking at tape, but it looked from the stands like linebacker Phillip Gaines leads what is an aggressive, well-trained and intense bunch of defenders.

2. North Hall (1-0)

Average Points Scored 28: Average Points Allowed 6: Power rating 4.67

North Hall beat what I think we are going to find is a very good Johnson team. This game should have been much closer than the final score indicated.

In many ways, Johnson won the statistical battle. Johnson averaged more yards per rush, had almost double the yards per pass attempt, plus it had 58 more yards in total offense.

However, North Hall has been the best team in the region at running down a runner or pass receiver and preventing a score. The Trojans will absorb yardage, but boy are they tough to score on.

North Hall has a history of getting better each week, and generally are much better and more efficient in weeks seven, eight and nine than it had been in weeks one, two and three.

Let’s look at some of the Trojan’s pluses: Peyton Wilhoite averaged more than 6 yards per carry, and Matt Christmas and Avery Nix averaged better than 5 yards per carry. These numbers tell you something about the splendid blocking North Hall gets from its “big men,” led by returning starters Daniel Blitch and Matt Haynes.

The stats prove that Johnson has a fine offense, but it also points out how very tough North Hall is to score on. The numbers would indicate that the Trojans’ passing game is going to need some improvement.

The Trojans go to Buford on Friday night, this should be a great test for this young North Hall football team.

3. West Hall (1-0)

Average Points Scored 28: Average Points Allowed 27: Power Rating 1.04

West Hall used an extremely effective passing game to open up the 2008 season with a 28-27 win over East Jackson.

Shunquez Stephens threw four TD passes (all of the Spartan scoring) in a game where East Jackson took away the West Hall running game. The Spartans are going to have to improve their running game in order to keep the defenses honest against their superb QB.

East Jackson mounted an effective run game, averaging more than 5 yards per attempt. The Spartans play host to region opponent Pickens on Friday night. It will be Pickens’ opening game of the 2008 season.

4. Flowery Branch (0-1)

Average Points Scored 25: Average Points Allowed 28: Power Rating 0.76

I thought seriously about driving up to Toccoa last Friday night to watch the Flowery Branch-Stephens County game. I suspected it would be a good game between two of the best teams in AAA in North Georgia.

I went to Toccoa last year to watch Stephens County beat Hart County 20-7. I thought at the time North Hall might have to go through Toccoa during the 2008 playoffs. A friend of mine, who is very close to the Stephens County football program, told me that this year’s team was better than last year’s team which had gone undefeated in the regular season. I say all this because I think it is important at this time to know that the Falcons played one of the very best AAA teams in the state last Friday night.

Stephens County dominated the game statistically, but only won 28-25. Clearly, from the accounts of the game the Falcons had some uncharacteristic breakdowns on pass defense. The Falcons have been a bend-but-don’t-break defense, and their secondary usually keeps the receivers in front of them.

The Falcons pass offense averaged 8.33 yards per pass attempt, that’s an OK number. They completed 57 percent of their passes and threw no interceptions. Since the Indians held the Falcons offense to 2.93 yards per rushing attempt, you would have to feel that Stephens County controlled the line of scrimmage and had been well-schooled in defending the option.

I think this was a great contest for the Falcons, win or lose. They know they can play with the best, and they were just a play or two away from beating a team which has not lost a regular season game since September 2006, and that was their only regular season loss in that season.

Flowery Branch’s home opener is Friday night vs. Region 7-AAA opponent Lumpkin County.

5. East Hall (0-1)

Average Points Scored 14: Average Points Allowed 17: Power Rating 0.82

East Hall opened its season a week earlier than the other teams in Region 7-AAA, when the Vikings traveled to play Murray County, a AAAA school.

After leading much of the way, they lost 17-13. East Hall is still a very young team counting on freshmen and sophomores to man many positions. This young team is very athletic and has gone to the spread offense to take advantage of their speed against teams which are a little more physical and mature.

White County, another spread team, comes to East Hall on Friday night, which should be a good test for both teams. Coach Gray and his staff have had two weeks to make corrections from the Murray County game, plus an extra week of preparation for White County.

6. Johnson (0-1)

Average Points Scored 6: Average Points Allowed 28: Power Rating 0.21
I

f you look at the statistics from the North Hall loss this past weekend, you can tell this is an improving Johnson football team. The Knights averaged 5.89 yards per carry against a team which has been the region’s best the last couple of years. They held the powerful North Hall wing-T running game to an average of 4.25 yards per carry, while playing incredibly efficient pass defense, allowing less than 3 yards per pass attempt.

This is a fundamentally very sound football team. They play hard and the coaching staff makes good adjustments and almost always keeps their players in position to make plays. North Forsyth comes to Johnson on Friday night, both teams will be coming off of disappointing losses and Classs AAAAA North Forsyth is in for a great contest.

7. Chestatee (0-1)

Average Points Scored 0: Average Points Allowed 35: Power Rating 0.03

This is a much better football team than the 35-0 loss indicated. The War Eagles were clearly outplayed by the Red Elephants, but it was one of those games where everything went wrong for Chestatee.

The War Eagles run a veer offense with extremely large line splits. This is a very tough offense to adjust to if a coaching staff has only one week of preparation. Gainesville had a whole offseason, plus a training camp to get ready.

On defense, Chestatee’s 3-5-3 looked to be outmatched in regards to covering Gainesville’s splendid receiver corps. The Red Elephants run an offense where they could play away from Chase Vasser’s strengths. They ran plays away from Vasser, Chestatee’s senior linebacker, and did not allow him to be the great runstopper that he is.

Hidden away in this loss was the terrific hard-nosed running by junior halfback Ben Souther. Souther came to play, and at no time in the game was it easy for the swarming Red Elephant defense to get him on the ground.

Chestatee at its best is a “grind it out” kind of offense. Gainesville consistently controlled first down running, forcing the War Eagles to play in long yardage situations. This is not their strength.

Chestatee has an open date this weekend, but you can bet next week when it plays Johnson it will be fully prepared for a great contest.

Chuck Clausen is a Hall County resident who coached high school, college and professional football for 28 years and who currently serves as an analyst for high school games on 550-AM. His opinion is not necessarily that of The Times.



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