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Clausen: Gainesville still No. 1 in power rankings
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At the end of Week 6, Hall County’s 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.

Hall County’s football fans have seen just 60 percent 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 team work 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 and Mary we found some stats were more important than others. Each week, I look inside the stats and try and highlight the ones which separate the strong teams from the weaker teams.

1. Gainesville (6-0)

Average Points Scored 34: Average Points Allowed 5: Power Rating 6.8: I watched a very good Gainesville team against previously undefeated West Forsyth.

It was a great crowd, great stadium, perfect weather and two groups of splendid young men both trying to stay undefeated — high school football in North Georgia at its very best. The final score was 35-16 in favor of Gainesville. The score itself was a little closer than it should have been, but the Red Elephants fumbled the ball four times and lost all four fumbles.

This forced the best defense I have seen in Class AAA this season to play a good part of the game on a very short field. This short field contributed significantly to West Forsyth’s 16 points.

Gainesville’s superb 3-4 defense is aggressive, plays fast and their incredible pursuit kept what was a very good running team to 2.9 yards per attempt.

The Red Elephants defense held one of North Georgia’s premier running backs, Ben Emert, to 84 total yards on 28 attempts, an average of 3 yards per carry. West Forsyth’s senior quarterback Lance Baker was constantly under pressure, completing only 48 percent of his pass attempts while being held to 6.3 yards per completion. The Gainesville run game was awesome, led by junior quarterback Blake Sims, who averaged 16.44 yards per carry and had the best long run by a quarterback I have seen this season. Sims took a keeper play off the left side of the offensive line, and with remarkable vision, change of pace, body control and acceleration took the football 80 yards for a touchdown.

The Gainesville passing stats were good, but not great.

The Red Elephants completed 53 percent of their pass attempts and averaged 8.53 yards per completion.
Teryan Rucker caught a 65-yard touchdown pass and teammates D.J. Allen, Tai-ler Jones and Juwon Jeffries also contributed receptions to the Gainesville passing attack. This is a talented receiving corps. It can and will make the tough catch when called upon.

2. Flowery Branch (5-1)

Average Points Scored 35.67: Average Points Allowed 12.83: Power Rating 2.78: The Falcons are getting better every week as their south Hall County rival, West Hall, found out last Friday night. I am not sure where we start since the Falcons showed domination on both sides of the football. Let’s start with the offense, which had a season-high 572 yards. Daniel Drummond, the Falcons running back/defensive end, averaged 35 yards per carry on just seven carries. Flowery Branch ran the ball 27 times and averaged 14.67 yards per carry.

The Falcons’ passing game was equally impressive averaging 16.18 yards per completion, while completing 73 percent of their attempts. Before leaving the offense let me point out that Flowery Branch had no fumbles or interceptions. That is a key stat as the season goes on and the competition gets tougher.

On defense, the Falcons played a very good game against the Spartans. West Hall quarterback Shunquez Stephens has exceptional passing skills and a very good receiving corps.

The Falcons’ pass defense absorbed plenty of passing yards by keeping the ball in front of them, breaking up passes when they could, and always or almost always making a sure tackle on the receiver. West Hall had 364 passing yards, completed 67 percent of its passes, averaged a very good 10.11 yards per completion and threw one interception. But a very disciplined Falcons’ defense held them to one score.

The Flowery Branch run defense was superb, holding the Spartans to 0.58 yards per carry on 26 rushing attempts. Flowery Branch plays host to North Hall on Friday night at Falcon Field. This game features Flowery Branch’s spread offense against North Hall’s wing-T.

3. Chestatee (3-2)

Average Points Scored 26.4: Average Points Allowed 19.2 Power Rating 1.38: Overwhelming domination best describes the play of the War Eagles’ big guys last Friday night against Lumpkin County. When Chestatee had the football, interior offensive linemen Julio Artega, David Jones, Michael Parr, Clint Stanley, Lynx Martin and Ben Brown, and tight ends Derek Cantrell and Brantley Beck took control of that 12-inch space separating the two teams, allowing Chestatee to run the ball 50 times for 248 yards. That’s an average of almost 5 yards per carry.

Conversely, when the Indians had the football, Thomas Norman, Chandler Farrow, Tyler Terry, Ben Johnson and Reese Smith controlled that same 12 inches, allowing the linebacking corps to run free and hold the Indians to less than 2 yards per carry. In the improving War Eagles’ passing game, Ethan Souther completed 69 percent of his passes without throwing an interception. At the same time, Chestatee’s pass defense allowed only a 40-percent completion rate, and held Lumpkin County to 6.4 yards per completion.

The one area of concern that Chestatee has from last week’s game was the fact it fumbled the ball four times and lost three of them. On nights when the War Eagles are less dominating, this could cost them dearly in their run for the playoffs. Chestatee plays host to Gilmer on Friday night at War Eagle Field.

4. North Hall (3-2)

Average Points Scored 17.8 Average Points Allowed 22.4 Power Rating 0.79: This young and improving team won a close one last Friday night when they beat White County 13-10 in Cleveland. Everybody I have talked to who has seen the Warriors play say they are as strong and physical as any team in North Georgia on their offensive and defensive lines.

The score was close, primarily because North Hall fumbled the football seven times and lost four of the fumbles. In all the other stats, the Trojans played winning football on both offense and defense.

The Trojans’ wing-T running game is like a meat grinder. They just keep coming at you, just like last week when they ran the ball 50 times for 213 yards and averaged 4.26 yards per carry. North Hall’s improved passing game completed 53 percent of its passes and averaged 9 yards per completion.

North Hall threw one interception, but its pass defense intercepted two of the White County passes to better than even the score. On defense, North Hall held the White County spread running game to 3.44 yards per carry and dominated its passing game by holding it to a 42-percent completion rate and to an average of 4.42 yards per completion.

5. West Hall (3-3)

Average Points Scored 17.33 Average Points Allowed 25.33 Power Rating 0.68: Nobody plays pitch and catch better week-in and week-out than the Spartans. Last week against Flowery Branch, the West Hall passing game had winning numbers every place but the scoreboard. Shunquez Stephens completed 67 percent of his passes and averaged 10.11 yards per completion, while throwing only one interception against one of North Georgia’s soundest pass defenses.
West Hall has been unable to run the football against good defenses. The last two weeks the Spartans have averaged less than 1 yard per carry.

I know this stat includes some passes where the quarterback was tackled for a loss, nonetheless, the Spartans offense lacks balance. Defensive coaches love one-dimensional football teams, because you know what you have to defend. The old trend in high school football was run first, pass when you have to.

This mentality, however, is changing. I am not sure any team is passing the football better than West Hall, but passing the football is so much better at the high school level than what we saw just five years ago. As defenses have caught up to the spread offense passing game, it has become more important to present an effective running threat.
West Hall faces Johnson on Friday night.

6. Johnson (1-5)

Average Points Scored 17.5 Average Points Allowed 33.17 Power Rating 0.53: Maybe the best winless team (Creekview) in Class AAA got its first win of the season when the Knights traveled to Canton last Friday night. This new high school took out weeks of frustration on the Knights. Creekview won this game in every aspect.

Johnson quarterback Anthony Prophet, who is having a very productive season, was held in check by a splendid defensive effort by the Grizzlies host. The Creekview defense held Prophet to 2.8 yards per carry on 12 carries, while keeping his pass completion percentage to 33 percent.

Prophet had one interception in Johnson’s 12 passing attempts.

7. East Hall (1-4)

Average Points Scored 12.2: Average Points Allowed 31.8: Power Rating 0.38: The Vikings had a open date this past Friday night. East Hall visits Gainesville on Friday night at Bobby Gruhn Field.

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 WDUN 550-AM. His opinion is not necessarily that of The Times.

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