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Gainesville stays on top of power rankings
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At the end of Week 4 the Hall County 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 and 4) opponents win/loss percentage. This week we rated the teams on the ratio of points scored against points allowed.

We (the Hall County football fans) have seen just 40 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, and 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 Unviersity, I’ve found some stats more important than others. Each week I will look inside the stats and try and highlight the ones which separate the strong teams from the weaker teams.

1. Gainesville (4-0)

Average Points Scored 31.5: Average Points Allowed 3.5: Power Rating 9.0:

As the opponents get tougher and more competitive, it is the "big guys" in the trenches who often account for the margin of victory. In the football games we have seen so far this season, nobody has dominated the war in the trenches better than left end Josh Jackson, nose guard Shammond Stringer and right ends Kevin Hall and Austin Calvert.

Time after time and play after play these players bring it hard. You and I in the stands do not always see when these guys take on two men and fight them to a draw, freeing a linebacker to blow up a play unblocked. Play after play the Red Elephants took complete command of the line of scrimmage holding the Trojans to 2.68 yards per rushing attempt.

When North Hall was forced to pass, the "big guys" put on a blistering pass rush, holding North Hall to 4.46 yards per pass attempt and forcing two interceptions. On Offense, the Red Elephants took advantage of North Hall’s game plan, which was to stop, or at least slow down, the passing game by running the ball 40 times for 309 yards an average of 7.73 yards per attempt.

Blake Sims had another good night rushing, he averaged 8.27 yards on 11 rushing attempts; but the dominating runner for Gainesville was Teryan Rucker who averaged 11.6 yards per carry while being one of eight Gainesville players who caught passes vs. North Hall.

When you have a quarterback who can hit eight different receivers, complete 69 percent of his passes and yet pull the ball down and run when his receivers are covered, you are going to be tough to beat. The Red Elephants play the best West Hall team we have seen in years when the Spartans bring their top-ranked passing game to Bobby Gruhn Field Friday night.

2. Flowery Branch (3-1)

Average Points Scored 29.5 : Average Points Allowed 15.75: Power Rating 1.87:

Flowery Branch’s offense was better against Chestatee than it had been the week before against Creekside; but it was still the Falcons’ defense which led the way to last Friday night’s victory.

Flowery Branch’s defense held the potent War Eagle running game to 4.07 yards per run, while intercepting two passes and recovering two fumbles. Defensive corner David DeLeon was directly responsible for 12 of the Falcons 24 points. First, he stripped the ball forcing a fumble which was picked up by his teammate Cory Sanderson who took the ball 38 yards for a Falcons touchdown.

DeLeon then helped to clinch the victory for his teammates by picking off an Ethan Souther pass and returning it for a 21-yard score. The Flowery Branch offense, which generally stays pretty balanced, leaned a little heavier on the running game against the War Eagles.

The Falcons ran the ball 28 times and averaged 4.93 yards per running play, but only passed the ball a total of eight times (an unusually low number for a spread team) and completed only three passes. However the passes they completed were big ones as Connor Shaw averaged an unheard of 17.5 yards per pass attempt. Coming off an impressive first win of the season, the Johnson Knights will be at Flowery Branch Friday night.

3. West Hall (3-1)

Average Points Scored 24.25: Average Points Allowed 13.5: Power Rating 1.8:

The Spartans lost a close hard fought game to White County last Friday night. The stats suggest that the Warriors completely dominated the line of scrimmage, holding West Hall to .48 per rush in 21 attempts.

Two thing last Friday night were impressive about these Spartans. First, after having been dominated during the first half, the West Hall defense held the Warriors scoreless in the second half and the Spartans’ passing game almost came back and won the game.

Shunquez Stephens, West Hall’s quarterback, had another incredible night completing 65 percent of his passes to four different receivers while averaging a very strong 9.81 yards per pass attempt.

Terrell Penland caught five passes for 131 yards, an average of over 26 yards per reception, while teammates Kyle Weatherly, Marquise Stephens and Rodney Gibson combined for 11 receptions for an additional 124 yards and an average of better than 11 yards per reception.

Friday night the Spartans visit Gainesville to take on Hall County’s No. 1-ranked defense and an offense which has better balance and has proven to be just as productive. This should be a very competitive contest for both teams.

4. Chestatee (1-2)

Average Points Scored 21: Average Points Allowed 24.33: Power Rating 0.86:

If you looked at the numbers you would say that the War Eagles played good enough to win. The War Eagles had almost a 100 yards more in total offense and had a completion percentage which was significantly higher than Flowery Branch.

Chestatee quarterback Ethan Souther completed over 61 percent of his pass attempts, while Connor Shaw of Flowery Branch had a much lower completion percentage, completing only 35.5 percent of his pass attempts.

What happened? Turnovers!

The Flowery Branch defense recovered two fumbles, returning one for a touchdown, and intercepted two passes also returning one for a touchdown. When you lose the turnover battle four to one you will almost always lose.

Chestatee travels to Jasper Friday night to play Pickens, which has a 0-3 record and a power rating of .25 having averaged eight points a game while its defense has allowed an average of 32 points a game.

5. Johnson(1-3)

Average Points Scored 22.75: Average Points Allowed 28.75: Power Rating 0.79:

Last Friday, the Knights got their first win, completely dominating Pickens 33-14. The Knight’s defense, led by Gilberto Espinoza, held the Dragons’ running game to 2.44 yards per attempt while the Johnson offense, led by quarterback Anthony Prophet, ran for 302 total yards on 46 attempts, an average of 6.57 yards per attempt.

Two other Knight ball carriers also had impressive nights. Mick Shannon averaged 5.8 per carry and Espinoza took a few shots running the ball averaging over 5.5 yards per carry. This was a great win for the Knights after their tough loss last week to the War Eagles where their roster was depleted because of a number of injuries.

Friday night the Knights will be seeking their second win against a very competitive Flowery Branch team at the Branch.

6. East Hall (1-3)

Average Points Scored 15.25: Average Points Allowed 25.75: Power Rating 0.59:

It took two overtimes in Ellijay last Friday night for this young Vikings football team to get their first win of the 2008 season. Vikings quarterback Desmon Gardner scored the winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak in the second overtime.

Gardner scored two of the Vikings touchdowns running and also completed a touchdown pass to Kiante Young.

Young, from his defensive back position, also pick up a fumble and returned it 40 yards for a another touchdown. Chrisel Flores’ two successful field goals of 31 and 32 yards were clearly part of the margin of victory. When a brave bunch of young athletes get on a bus in Ellijay after a double overtime win it is a great ride home.

Friday night undefeated West Forsyth comes to East Hall. West Forsyth has a 3-0 record and a power rating of 2.3 having average 41.75 points per game while giving up 18.75 points per game.

7. North Hall (1-2)

Average Points Scored 14: Average Points Allowed 26: Power Rating 0.54:

Last Friday night, a very mature and talented Red Elephant football team dominated a younger North Hall football team 27-0. Clearly Gainesville won the battle in the trenches holding, what has been a very effective and well executed wing-T running attack, to 2.68 yards per carry in 44 rushing attempts.

This was done by Gainesville while playing excellent pass defense. The Red Elephants held North Hall to a 46.4 percent completion rate and an average of 4.46 yards per attempt.

North Hall, like all teams which must face a very effective spread offense, predicated its game plan on controlling the pass. What the Trojans had not counted on was Gainesville running the ball 40 times while passing only 29 times.

The hard thing about defending the spread offense, when there’s such a fine passing quarterback like Blake Sims, is how you control the passing game and still have enough players on or near the line of scrimmage if the quarterback decides to scramble, or to stop a basic run play from an offense which spreads your defense all over the field.

No football team in North Georgia is more fundamentally sound and better prepared than these Trojans are. One of the lessons of life: Some times the other team is a better team.

I am sure that North Hall has learned from the loss and has focused all week on Creekview. Creekview may be the very best 0-3 team in Class AAA. All three of the teams which have beaten Creekview are fine football teams with strong winning records.

Flowery Branch left Canton a couple of weeks ago after winning the game with a field goal just as time had run out against Creekview. In its opener this year Creekview lost to undefeated Class AAAAA Sequoyah 27-24 and last Friday night lost to West Forsyth (4-0) 27-24.

The Trojans are in for a very tough game Friday night at the Brickyard, don’t let the opponent’s record fool you. My guess right now, this game when it is all over will be decided late by the team which is best prepared to take advantage of the opportunity.

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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