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Big Red enters playoffs on high note
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The Blitz: Your source for high school football

Sixty-four Class AAA teams have qualified for the 2009 playoffs. Four teams from Region 7-AAA enter the first round Friday night.

Three of the four are from Hall County and the fourth is Creekview, which is from Canton. Gainesville has the power rating of 6.86 through 10 games, which means they have scored almost seven points for every point scored by their 10 opponents. Gainesville and North Hall will both play home games Friday night.

The Trojans will play host to a very good 8-2 Ringgold team at the Brickyard and the Red Elephants play Lakeview Ft.-Oglethorpe (7-3) at Bobby Gruhn Field. North Hall has a power rating of 1.96, the Trojans, who played the last half of the season are better than their power rating.

Ringgold was seeded third in Region 6-AAA and its only region loss was to Ridgeland (9-1).

Lakeview is a No. 4 seed from 6-AAA and has the lowest power ratings from 6-AAA and 7-AAA. Lakeview had region losses to Ridgeland and Ringgold.

Lakeview Ft. Oglethorpe at Gainesville

Gainesville (10-0): Power Rating 6.86, average points scored 47.3, average points allowed 6.9.
The 2009 Red Elephants enter the 2009 playoffs ranked No. 1 in the state and are the strongest team in Region 7-AAA.

What makes these splendid football players special? This team has great speed. I mean they have fast football players at almost every position. Their defense is relentless and has so much speed, in the event of an error, the overall team pursuit covers it up. They play with three down linemen on defense and four linebackers and four defensive backs, this is not an alignment most high school teams see every week.

For the most part, the Gainesville defense is better at doing what it does, than the offenses it plays are at blocking it.
The Red Elephants run a 3-4 defense every down and every week, they are not only great athletes, but they are very well-trained

Quarterback Blake Sims is an extremely gifted athlete and the Gainesville coaches move him around some which gives the opponents real match up problems. Running out of a spread offense, they keep their play calling pretty balanced. If you line up to defend the run, they will pass; line up and defend the pass, they can and will run very effectively.

They have a solid offensive line which has matured and gotten better every week, and they have receivers and runners that few teams can match up against. Gainesville’s offense scored 34 or more points in every game and scored more than 60 points twice. White County scored a season high  20 points on the Gainesville defense, Flowery Branch scored 17 and the Gainesville defense recorded five shutouts.

Lakeview- Ft. Oglethorpe (7-3): Power Rating 1.17, average points scored 24.9, average points allowed 21.20.

Their losses were to Ringgold (North Hall’s first -round opponent), Ridgeland (Flowery Branch’s first-round opponent), and to North Paulding, a school from Class AAAA. They scored a season-high 38 points in their loss to North Paulding and had no shutouts in their 10 regular season games. Six times during the season they scored more than 28 points.

Ringgold at North Hall

North Hall (8-2): Power Rating 1.96, average points scored 32.9, average points allowed 16.8.

Entering the 2009 playoffs, this is one fine football team and a team that is better than their power rating.

The Trojans’ only two losses came in Week 2 against Buford (ranked No. 1 at the time) and in Week 3 to top-ranked Gainesville. I personally believe that North Hall came out of those two games better than it went in and have improved every week since.

In spite of the scores of those two games, the North Hall players knew they could compete against the best. In Week 4, a week after Gainesville, the Trojans beat Creekview (9-1), 45-21. They shut out White County 38-0, and that is a White County team which scored 20 points on Gainesville. Then in a great contest between two fine football teams, they beat high-scoring Flowery Branch, 37-34. This will be a battle-tested Trojans team which plays Ringgold (9-1) on Friday night at the Brickyard.

Ringgold (8-2): Power Rating 2.15, Average points scored 23.7, Average points allowed 11. This is a really good Ringgold Tigers team that we will see Friday night at the Brickyard. Ringgold’s two losses were to Class AAAA North Paulding, 7-6, and Region 6-AAA champion Ridgeland, 10-7. Ringgold scored more than 45 points twice and had only one shutout. The statistics would indicate that Ringgold has played better defense than North Hall because on average, it has given up four fewer points. North Hall on average has scored nine more points per game than Ringgold.

It looks to me like both teams have played tough schedules and both should be prepared for a great contest.

Flowery Branch at Ridgeland

Flowery Branch (7-3): Power Rating 1.7, average points scored 42.3, average points allowed 24.9.

I believe that there are few teams in Georgia that week in and week out play better offense than the Falcons. Led by one of the state’s best quarterbacks, Connor Shaw, this team plays with perfect balance. Last Friday, the arguably the best defensive team in the state took the run away, but that didn’t keep Shaw from throwing for 329 yards at an average of 7.39 yards per pass attempt. Gainesville’s defensive coaches had an advantage the Ridgeland coaches don’t have, Gainesville had known from about the middle of the season that Flowery Branch was likely to be the biggest threat in the region and the only offense which could give it major problems.

Flowery Branch’s offensive plans are too good and well executed for most teams to effectively prepare for in one week. Ridgeland’s defensive stats are impressive. It allows only 8.4 points per game, this means it has good defensive players and has been given excellent plans during the regular season. Flowery Branch’s weakness has been defense. It has not been able to stop a Wing-T team and at best it has only been average. Let me say this, I wouldn’t bet against this team after what I saw them do in last year’s playoffs. They went on the road for five weeks and ended up playing in the Dome for the state championship. These Falcons, if they go down, will go down fighting.

Ridgeland (9-1): Power Rating 3.79, average points scored 31.8, average points allowed 8.4.

Last Friday night, in what must have been a great ball game, Ridgeland played undefeated Carrollton for the region championship.

Coming into the game, Ridgeland had one loss and that was in Week 2 in a non-region game. Carrollton had no losses and had been scoring on average more points than Ridgeland and giving up fewer points to their opponents. Even today, Carrollton has a power rating of 4.75 to Ridgeland’s 3.79 (both have higher power ratings than any team in Hall County, but Gainesville).

Ridgeland’s defense recorded an impressive five shutouts. Calhoun, the only team it lost to, was able to hold it to one touchdown and Ringgold (North Hall’s Opponent) held Ridgeland to 10 points.

Last year in the second round of the playoffs Flowery Branch traveled to Ridgeland and won 21-14.

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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