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Clausen: Gainesville the cream of the crop in Hall County

POSTED: October 30, 2013 9:41 p.m.

Can you believe it is Week 10 already in our football season?

It seems just like a couple of weeks ago we were sitting in the stands in our short-sleeve shirts in the hot sun and are now putting on the coats and blankets to cheer on our home teams. Right now, four of our Hall County public school teams have seven wins each, and six of the seven teams are at .500 or better.

Four of our teams are in the running for their region championships, and six out of the seven teams could well end the season with a winning record.

This says a lot about the players and the families that raised them, and the tremendous coaching they got when they decided to be a football player.

Football’s a tough game.

These kids started practicing twice a day when the temperature was in the 90s and will finish the season when you and I will be wearing heavy coats and the players are no longer stressed by the heat.

Sometime in October players and fans all feel it — it’s football weather. It’s cool and the player feels like he can play forever. And this is at the time we as fans can start to identify the possible playoff teams and this year’s champions. This is a brief time in the player’s life, but he is creating memories and friendships that will last forever.

Woody Hayes used to tell us that a player became a good teammate when he was growing up. Woody was very observant of the family structure and how the family related to each other. God made the player a great athlete but Mom and Dad taught them to be a great teammate.

1. Gainesville (7-1, 6-0 Region 8-AAAAA) - PR 3.32; Average Points Scored 50.25; Average Points Allowed 15.13: The Red Elephants had a bye this past week. They will be playing at Loganville (4-4, 3-3 Region 8 AAAAA) Friday night. When Flowery Branch played Loganville, the Falcons won.

2. North Hall (7-1, 4-1 Region 7-AAA) - PR 2.47; Average Points Scored 43.50; Average Points Allowed 17.63: The Trojans are coming off a 35-21 region victory over a very good West Hall football team.

Trojans senior quarterback Andrew Smith rushed for three second half touchdowns and 129 yards. As an old defensive coach, the running quarterback kills you. You set up your run defense to stop the fullback and tailback, and unless it’s an option play, you scramble to get the running quarterback on the ground.

I’ve coached where we had great running quarterbacks and a lot of times they were your ace in the hole.

These nimble quarterbacks help you win when nothing else seems to be working. North Hall also averaged 7.2 per carry and ran for a total of 366 yards. That’s one great night of offensive line play.

When you see a North Hall game, look at the offensive line; they really click and play very well together. The Trojans will visit winless Banks County on Friday for a game in Homer.

3. Flowery Branch (7-2, 7-0 Region 8-AAAAA): PR 2.15; Average Points Scored 34.22; Average Points Allowed 15.89: When we first moved to Gainesville about 20 years ago, Clarke Central seemed to dominate Northeast Georgia football. They’re probably not as good as they used to be, but I certainly didn’t expect a really good Flowery Branch team to totally dominate in a 37-7 win.

The Falcons went in at halftime with a 15-7 lead, but two third-quarter touchdowns were will breakers for Clarke Central. While Falcons’ the offense is getting headlines, the defense is kicking “rear ends” and taking names.

That’s a term defensive coaches at all levels used to describe the defensive team’s play. They held the Gladiators to seven points (their lowest total scored in four years). The Falcons defensive front had eight sacks, five of which came in the third quarter.

I learned as a young defensive coach that football was the battle of wills, and you wanted your players to play so long and so hard that you got your opponent thinking about a nice shower and the bus ride home.

Flowery Branch has a bye this week and will be meeting Gainesville (7-1, 6-0 Region 8-AAAAA) for the Region 8-AAAAA championship Nov. 8 at City Park Stadium.

4. Chestatee (7-1, Region 8-AAAA, 5-0) - PR 2.01; Average Points Scored 27.13; Average Points Allowed 13.50: War Eagles coach Stan Luttrell and his War Eagles keep tightening the screws each week on all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams.

As I look back on my coaching career, the close games the games were almost always won or lost on special teams.

Chestatee won big over Lumpkin County 42-14.

Blake Buffington’s 75-yard kickoff return is the biggest example of how the War Eagles’ special teams have contributed to the team’s record.

They have also helped them remain undefeated in Region 8-AAAA play. The War Eagle defense held Lumpkin County to 11 total yards in 22 attempts, which is 1/2 a yard per rush attempt.

The Chestatee defensive front was awesome. They dominated the line of scrimmage play after play after play. The defense also intercepted four passes and recovered a fumble.

If your defense gets four turnovers, you will win 90 percent of the time.

Chestatee got five.

This was a game won up front at the line of scrimmage. The offense averaged 5.12 yards per carry on 60 carries. This is incredible domination.

On Friday, Chestatee visits Monroe Area (8-0, 5-0 Region 8-AAAA) to decide the region title.

5. West Hall (5-3, 3-2 Region 7-AAA) - PR 1.51; Average Points Scored 30.38; Average Points Allowed 20.13: It seems incredible to me that this fine West Hall football team with a 5-3 record has four teams in the county with better records and higher power ratings.

This tells you about the overall high quality of Hall County high school football.

Last Friday night the Spartans played North Hall and lost 35-21, but it was still anyone’s game up to the last six minutes.

West Hall had 225 total yards rushing with seven different backs carrying the football. This tells you about effectiveness of their offensive line. Some teams put up good running stats because of a great running back whose running skills make him hard to tackle.

The Spartans’ fine running statistics are the result of superior blocking of their offensive line and well-timed running by their backs.

Offensive line play is unique in several respects. More than any other group on your football team, they are closer together and communicate with each other on the line of scrimmage and on the sidelines between series. On Friday, West Hall hosts a very fine White County (6-2, 4-1 Region 7-AAA).

6. East Hall (4-4, 1-4 Region 7-AAA) - PR 1.42; Average Points Scored 33.38; Average Points Allowed 23.50: East Hall had a big win last Friday night against Banks County. They went in at halftime ahead 20-0, then scored 13 more points in the fourth quarter to earn the 33-7 victory.

The Vikings showed a very balanced offense as they had 189 yards on the ground and 256 yards passing. This balance makes it real hard on the defense. Though they did throw two interceptions, they still had 445 total yards of offense.

Devin Watson completed 17 out of 25 passing attempts for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Edward Vergara ran for 57 yards on eight carries and Watson ran for 79 yards on 13 carries. The Vikings defense did an incredible job of defending the run game. They allowed 23 yards total on 24 attempts, roughly one yard per carry.

It looked like the Banks County running backs were running into a brick wall. On Friday, East Hall visits top-ranked Buford (8-0, 5-0 Region 7-AAA).

7. Johnson (2-7) - PR 0.41; Average Points Scored 13.56; Average Points Allowed 33.11: Johnson High lost last Friday to Pickens 21-14. Hidden away in this loss was some good blocking by the Knights’ offensive line and a 120 yards rushing by Luis Hernandez. The Knights continually play hard for four full quarters.

Several of the games they lost were close and could have gone either way. Chase Sims continues to improve his play. He had 34 yards passing, 50 yards on the ground, an 18-yard touchdown pass and a touchdown on the ground.

The defense had a great first half with four turnovers, including two interceptions by Orion Pittman, plus it held 1,000-yard rusher Shannon Brooks, to only 68 yards. This Johnson team is progressing each week. Their blocking is better, their tackling is crisper and their execution has improved.

Chuck Clausen is a Hall County resident who coached high school, college and professional football for 28 years. His Power Ratings column appears each Thursday during high school football season.


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