Last Friday night I saw as good an athletic contest as I have seen or participated in. In my 28 seasons coaching, I had the opportunity to coach only two or three games which were as good as the one I saw when Flowery Branch and North Hall met at the Brickyard.
I saw two teams that were equally well-prepared and mentally ready to slug it out for the full 15 rounds if that is what it took to win. No player or coach on either sideline was willing to concede anything. I would have loved to watch Lee Shaw and Bob Christmas prepare their splendid group of young men for the game they played.
Some times in life we do every thing right; we prepare, we execute, we push ourselves when tired, we refuse to surrender and the clock runs out on us when we are three points behind. The fans of both teams should be proud of they way their team represented them last Friday night at the Brickyard.
This week, you may notice I put North Hall ahead of Flowery Branch despite the fact that the Falcons have a higher power rating. When two teams are close from here on out, the team that won head-to-head will be rated higher.
1. GAINESVILLE (7-0): Average points scored 46.4, average points allowed 6.4, Power Rating 7.22. After seven weeks of football, with a very talented offense, it is the Red Elephants’ defense which separates them from the other very good Hall County teams.
Let’s look at what the Gainesville defense did last Friday night: It held East Hall to minus 2 yards on 34 offensive plays. I have seen some great defenses, but I can’t remember any defense being able to perform at that level. The Gainesville defense allowed a minus .11 yards per rush and .13 yards per pass attempt, while intercepting one pass and recovering two fumbles.
The Gainesville offense scored 63 points, averaged 6.4 yard per rush and 9.9 yards per pass attempt, all winning numbers. Gainesville played a number of young players, all of which were very productive.
Friday night the Red Elephants have the night off and then it’s Gilmer, Johnson and a very good Flowery Branch team, in a game which will probably decide the subregion and possibly the No. 1 seed out of 7AAA.
2. NORTH HALL (4-2): Average points scored 26.5, average points allowed 24.7, Power Rating 1.07. Last Friday, the Trojans used their very effective Wing-T offense, some option football and then, what I am going to call the Trojan version of the Wildcat.
Flowery Branch has played good defense this year, but not great defense — their defense was dominated by Creekview’s Wing-T, in its only loss going into last Friday’s game. High School defenses don’t see a lot of Wing-T any more and it’s a tough offense to get your scout team to give you a very good look at in practice.
While the option football probably represents only about 20 percent of North Hall’s offense, when it is run, it is run against a defense that isn’t expecting it, and it is executed very well.
Last Friday night with the game on the line, North Hall went to what I am going to call its wildcat.
I did not think until last Friday night that you could beat a team as good as Flowery Branch without a pretty good passing game. Nathan Jones had been very effective throwing the ball the week before against White County, and I expected this would be a major factor in last Friday night’s game. North Hall had no yards passing and no completions, it ran the ball 47 times for 395 yards and averaged 8.4 yards per carry.
The North Hall defense played with passion, swarmed the football and forced two key turnovers.
The Flowery Branch offense had winning numbers and were led by Connor Shaw, a talented quarterback and a fierce competitor.
North Hall can’t afford to slip during the last four games of the season, and a great game to see will be in two weeks when they face the Chestatee War Eagles.
3. FLOWERY BRANCH (5-2): Average points scored 43.4, average points allowed 20.0, Power Rating 2.17. I am not sure who has the better offense, Gainesville or Flowery Branch, but I assure you both are championship caliber.
Both have outstanding QBs, but Connor Shaw of Flowery Branch plays in more pressure situations because the Flowery Branch defense, which is pretty good, still cannot shut down a good offensive team. North Hall, in my opinion, had a great defensive game plan for the Falcons last Friday night, yet it didn’t keep Shaw from leading his team to 464 total yards, completing 65 percent of his passes and averaging almost 5 yards per carry.
Imani Cross rushed for 79 yards, which led the pretty balanced Flowery Branch rushing attack. Led by senior receiver Rodney
Young who had five catches for 72 yards, the fine receiving corps caught 22 passes, giving Flowery Branch’s offense the balance which makes them so hard to defend.
The Flowery Branch defense was overwhelmed by North Hall’s multiple running attack. The Falcons allowed 8.4 yards per rush. All three of Flowery Branch remaining games are subregions games, and their last game of the regular season could well decide the No. 1 seed for 7-AAA.
4. CHESTATEE (4-2): Average points scored 19.8, average points allowed 20.3, Power Rating 0.98. The War Eagles remained undefeated in subregion play with a 31-21 win over a much-improved Gilmer team last Friday night.
It was explosive option plays which led the way to victory. The War Eagles averaged 8.3 yards per rush largely because of well-run option football behind the fine blocking of senior linemen, Brantley Beck, Reese Smith and Gullermo Casas.
The War Eagles only completed 14.3 percent of their pass attempts and averaged only 3 yards per attempt. Yardage in the passing game may be the margin of difference as Chestatee moves into the toughest part of the subregion schedule during their last four games.
The War Eagles defense led by Robby Poole and Keaton Summerlin put up impressive numbers against Gilmer, holding the Bobcats to 3.1 yards per rush and 3.5 yards per pass attempt.
Three out of Chestatee’s last four games are subregion games, beginning with White County on Friday and then North Hall on Oct. 23.
5. JOHNSON (2-5): Average points scored 16, Average points allowed 31.1, Power Rating 0.51. Last Friday night Johnson got its second win of the season and scored a season-high 49 points. Averaging 8.3 yards per rush, the Knights found little reason to pass the football. They completed one pass in three attempts for 21 yards an average of 7 yards per attempt.
Quarterback Anthony Prophet averaged 14.5 yards per carry on 12 carries, Mantevius Rucker averaged 8.3 yards per carry on 15 carries, and sophomore Joey Brooks averaged 8.6 per carry on eight rushing attempts.
The Knight defense had a tough time defending the fine West Hall passing game; it gave up 45 points and allowed 12.2 yards per pass attempt, while the Spartans completed more than 67 percent of their pass attempts.
Friday night the Knights host a 3-3 West Forsyth team which is coming off an open date after a 34-0 loss to Gainesville.
6. WEST HALL (0-7): Average points scored 20.6, Average points allowed 45.7, Power Rating 0.45. The winless West Hall Spartans have one of North Georgia’s fine QBs and a very productive passing game.
Against Johnson last Friday night they had 593 yards of total offense — that’s the most total offense from any team in Hall County or Region 7 AAA this season. The Spartans, showing the most balance they have this season, ran the ball 26 times and averaged 5.4 per rush.
Shunquez Stephens threw for 452 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged 12.2 yards per pass attempt and completed 67.6 percent of his passes, throwing only one interception.
The Spartans are good enough on offense to win their last three games of the season if they can tighten up their defense.
They have Lumpkin County at home Friday night, play at East Hall next week and then finish at home against West Forsyth.
7. EAST HALL (0-6): Average points scored 4.2, Average points allowed 32.3 Power Rating 0.13. The Vikings were outmanned on both sides of the football last Friday night against Gainesville.
Tai-ler Jones took the opening kick off 86 yards set up a touchdown and set the tone for the whole evening. No. 1 Gainesville is the best team the Vikings will face all season.
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.