Fans we are in for some great football in the last four weeks of the regular season. I went to the Brickyard on Friday night to watch an improving Trojan team take on a very good White County team in a subregion game which would have major consequences for both teams.
The Trojans are on a very steep upward performance curve as the visiting Warriors found out to the tune of 38-0. Friday night Flowery Branch comes to the Brickyard. Those of you who are going to be there to see that game will see, in my opinion, a classic confrontation. Both teams are on an upward curve. North Hall is a Wing-T team which can and will run some option. They have an improving passing game, they are very physical upfront and they clearly plan to “beat you up” in the trenches.
They will be playing a Flowery Branch team which runs the spread option as good as anybody you or I will see play. The Falcons run or pass on any down and they do both with great effectiveness.
For the pure football fan, how can this not be great game?
Going into Week 7, we have four Hall County teams with a shot at the playoffs, all are now playing much better than they were in Week 1.
1. GAINESVILLE (6-0): Average points scored 43.7, average points allowed 7.5, Power Rating 5.82. Football is a violent physical contest, which when played at its best involves a blend of highly skilled athletes with a bunch of very strong and tough-willed teammates. Last Friday night, against a very good West Forsyth football team, the Red Elephant offense was a little slow getting in sync. In the meantime the Gainesville defense was pounding the Wolverine offense into submission.
Over the last month, the Wolverine offense had been averaging 29.3 points per game. Against the Red Elephants they averaged 0.6 yards per carry on 36 rushes, and 3.3 yards per attempt on 12 passes. In addition to that, linebacker Alberto Sanabria recovered a fumble and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown.
Once the highly skilled Gainesville offense kicked in, the running of quarterback Blake Simms (eight carries for 115 yards), Teryan Rucker (13 carries for 119 yards), and some other equally effective runners were just way too much for the Wolverines.
Gainesville was scoreless at the end of the first quarter and only winning 7-0 at half time, but they had a defense which was playing like three points would be enough. Gainesville’s passing game was held pretty much in check by West Forsyth as it only averaged 3.4 yards per pass attempt. It’s East Hall, Gilmer and Johnson the next three weeks, and then it’s Flowery Branch in South Hall.
2. FLOWERY BRANCH (5-1): Average points scored 45, average points allowed 17.2, Power Rating 2.62. The Flowery Branch offense keeps coming at you like a well-oiled machine. Nobody comes close when it comes to passing efficiency and, since they are balanced, if you try too hard to slow down the pass the Falcons can and will beat you running the football.
Last Friday night they scored 62 points against West Hall, and Connor Shaw was replaced in the second half by underclassman Logan Conley who completed 80 percent of his passes and averaged 19.2 yards per pass attempt.
On the night, the Falcon offense average 9 yards rushing on 18 attempts and 15.9 yards per pass on 17 attempts. The Falcons offense had no turnovers and was forced to punt only once (a 45-yarder).
The Falcons’ young defense allowed only 2.97 yards per rush and kept in check the fine West Hall pass offense by allowing 7 yards per attempt. The defense also forced five sacks and recovered three fumbles.
One fine night on all accounts and like the really good teams, the Falcons keep improving each week.
Friday night two great football programs meet at the Brickyard. These are very sound programs both built from the ground up, and both programs have players who play with sound fundamentals. The players in both programs have great support in the community and great direction from their coaching staffs.
3. NORTH HALL (3-2): Average points scored 24.40, average points allowed 22.8, Power Rating 1.07. The North Hall Trojan team I watched dominate a very good White County football team last Friday night has made immense improvement in every phase of the game in the last four weeks.
North Hall’s defense was as well prepared for the White County offense as any you and I will see. First of all, the Trojans are very tough and physical upfront.
Let’s look at what this splendid bunch of defenders did at the Brickyard last Friday night. They held some very talented runners to 3.3 yards per carry. On pass defense they allowed only 0.7 yards per pass attempt, and of the 20 passes thrown by White County, the Warriors caught three and North Hall intercepted three.
North Hall’s running game was solid, but not spectacular. Ben Booth averaged 10.2 yards per rush on five carries, and caught a pass in what has turned into a very effective passing game. Nathan Jones, the Trojans’ fine quarterback hit 60 percent of his passes to six different receivers and averaged 10.8 yards per pass attempt.
At 7:30 Friday night it is high school football at its very best — Flowery Branch vs. North Hall at the Brickyard.
4. CHESTATEE (3-2): Average points scored 17.2, average points allowed 20.2, Power Rating 0.85. The War Eagles continue to improve, beating a solid Lumpkin County team last Friday night. The War Eagles run offense was solid averaging 4.2 yards per rush, but not quite as explosive it had been in previous weeks. Ben Souther continues to be the workhorse, grinding out 127 yards in 25 carries — an average of 5 yards per carry.
The most impressive improvement in the Chestatee offense was in the passing game. Scott Chewning, who does a great job of engineering the War Eagle option offense, had a very effective night passing the football. He completed 67 percent his pass attempts and averaged 8.4 yards per attempt. Being able to balance off some fine option running with an efficient and well-timed passing game is going to be important as the War Eagles head into a very challenging part of their schedule.
The War Eagles defense seems to be hitting its stride. Last Friday night they held the Indians to 209 yards of total offense, allowed 4.7 yards per pass attempt, intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble. That kind of night’s work on defense is championship caliber.
Friday night, the War Eagles travel to Ellijay to play a much-improved Gilmer team. After losing their opener, the Bobcats have reeled off four straight wins and have their eye on the same playoff spot as the War Eagles.
5. JOHNSON (1-5): Average points scored 10.5, Average points Allowed 28.8, Power Rating 0.36. Johnson got beat by a very good Creekview team last Friday night. This is a Creekview team which is the only team that defeated Flowery Branch this season.
A number of Johnson Knights are playing fine football, and you can’t see the Knight’s play without being impressed by the terrific effort by defensive linemen E.J. Wright and the instinctive nose for the football of linebacker Joey Brooks. Those two guys continue to play winning football.
On offense, center David Harkin week in and week out continues to be one of the better interior linemen in North Georgia. Battling injury, Mantevius Rucker kept pounding away, showing his teammates what real toughness is all about. Friday night the Knights play host to West Hall, a team hungry for its first win.
6. WEST HALL (0-6): Average points scored 16.5, Average points allowed 45.33, Power Rating 0.36. Last Friday night the Flowery Branch defense was able to put constant pressure on Shunquez Stephens, the Spartans’ fine quarterback. This pressure interrupted the timing, keeping his yards per attempt to 7 — not bad, but with very little running game, not good enough to stay competitive. The West Hall defense yielded a season high 62 points to their high-scoring South Hall rivals. Friday it’s another South Hall rival as the Spartans play host to Johnson.
7. EAST HALL (0-5): Average points scored 5.0, Average points allowed 26.2, Power Rating 0.19. Coming off an open date the Vikings host number No. 1 Gainesville on Friday night.
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.