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The Blitz: Your source for high school football

Writer's Block: Flowery Branch QB Connor Shaw joins us to talk about last week's game

When I was coaching in the NFL, I worked with a guy named Steve Crosby, who currently coaches special teams for the San Diego Chargers.

Crosby, when referring to a player who consistently gave a great effort, would say “he empties the whole bucket.” On all of our Hall County teams there are players who “empty the whole bucket.” For the most part, you and I watching from the stands don’t know for sure who these guys are, but mark my word, their coaches and teammates who study tape together know who they are.

At certain positions it is easier than others to identify that guy; you and I can’t pick out the offensive guard, tackle or nose guard, but Flowery Branch quarterback Connor Shaw empties the whole bucket and he does it in every game and on every play. Last Friday night, the Falcons were playing another one of those great games, losing at the time 51-47.

Flowery Branch, with less that a minute to play, came up fourth-and-20 on the West Forsyth 47-yard line. Shaw, under heavy pressure, was forced to scramble when he saw his teammate Robby Boudreau break open. Shaw delivered the perfect pass with 49 seconds left in the ball game, and Boudreau caught the ball around the 20 and took it into the end zone for the winning score with 49 seconds remaining in the game.

When you are willing to empty the whole bucket sometimes great things happen. Sometimes they don’t, but you become, in my opinion, the very definition of a great teammate.

1. GAINESVILLE (8-0): Average points scored 45.1, average points allowed 6.5, Power Rating 6.94. Great and consistent defense separates the Red Elephants from everybody else I have seen in North Georgia these past nine weeks.
The Red Elephants scored 36 points in the first half against Gilmer in Ellijay last week, and then coasted to a 36-6 win. Blake Sims, the splendid Gainesville quarterback accounted for four of their touchdowns, two of them passes to one of North Georgia’s finest receivers, Tai-ler Jones.

Running from a spread formation, Gainesville runs a balanced offense, and are equally effective with the run and the pass. Sims, who has a great arm, can also beat you with his legs because he is extremely difficult to tackle in the open field.

On defense, Gainesville is led by a great linebacker corps. All four have great speed and nobody to this point in the season has been able to keep these guys from flying to the football. The Red Elephants run out of a 3-4 defense, and they are quick to adjust to any changes made by their opponents.

Friday, they face Johnson at City Park, an improving team which is coming off its third win.

2. NORTH HALL (6-2): Average points scored 30.4, average points allowed 19.4, Power Rating 1.59. It seems to me that every time the Trojans step on the field they are better than the last time they played.

Three weeks ago, I would have expected the War Eagle/Trojan game to be a very competitive contest. I had forgotten how much North Hall improves each week, and they have been doing that every year since Bob Christmas has been coaching the football team.

Last Friday night’s game against Chestatee was not close, for several reasons. North Hall averaged 9.4 per rush on 38 running attempts and averaged over 17 yards per pass attempt on five pass attempts.

On defense, North Hall was able to control the fine War Eagle running game, holding them to 4.3 yards per rush.

The biggest single stat which allowed this game to be a blowout was turnovers. The North Hall defense forced four turnovers (all fumble recoveries) while the Trojan offense lost only one fumble.

The North Hall offensive line dominates the line of scrimmage as good as anybody you will see. I want to mention seven guys who are winning battles in the trenches every Friday night. They are: Kyle Oliver, Daniel Blitch, Nathan Hewell, Nick Puckett, Kyle Olson, Chase Strickland and Roger Ponce. Down after down, five of these seven “big men” are winning battles and taking the fight to the opponent’s defense.

North Hall plays Gilmer on Friday at the Brickyard.

3. FLOWERY BRANCH (7-2): Average points scored 45.1, average points allowed 25.9, Power Rating 1.75. The Falcons, in about as exciting a finish to any game you will ever see, beat West Forsyth in the last 49 seconds last week.

Scrambling Connor Shaw threw a touchdown pass on fourth-and-20 after West Forsyth got quick heat on him and forced him out of the pocket. All West Forsyth had to do was force an incompletion or a completion of less than the twenty yards and they’d win. But Shaw found Robby Boudreau open around the 20-yard line and delivered a strike. Boudreau turned upfield took the ball to the end zone, giving the Falcons a 54-51 win.

The Falcons defense was totally dominated all night long by the West Forsyth Wing-T running game. West Forsyth averaged an incredible 10.7 yards per carry on 43 rushes for 460 yards rushing. I think this was the first time in my life I have ever seen a team rush for over 400 yards and still lose.

Offensively, the Falcons rushed for 252 yards on 37 carries, an average of 4.4 per run. They completed 17 of 27 pass attempts for 352 yards, an average of 12 yards per pass attempt.

Flowery Branch has two losses both to teams which run a Wing-T offense and in each of these losses their offense has been very productive. They have an open date this week and will have two weeks to prepare for the showdown with Gainesville at Flowery Branch.

Gainesville, the state’s No. 1 Class AAA team, will make the trip south for what should be a great football game. Gainesville runs out of the spread, so Flowery Branch will most likely not have to face the offense which has given them so much trouble this year.

But they will have to play against the best defense they have seen all season.

4. CHESTATEE (4-4): Average points scored 17.9, average points allowed 25.3, Power Rating 0.71. The War Eagles were dominated last Friday night by North Hall.

The Trojans, led by one of North Georgia’s finest blocking offensive lines, were able to average over 9 yards per rush. The War Eagles were also burned by the improving North Hall passing game, which averaged more than 17 yards per pass attempts.

Chestatee’s running game, ordinarily one of the best, was held under control as they averaged 4.4 yards per rushing attempt. Lamar Brooks, starting his first game at quarterback for Chestatee, scored on a 38-yard option run in the second quarter and completed 3 of 6 passing attempts.

Turnovers by the War Eagle offense kept the game from being more competitive.

Friday night, the War Eagles travel to face West Forsyth, a team coming off a last-minute loss to Flowery Branch.

5. JOHNSON (3-6): Average points scored 17.0, average points allowed 29.6, Power Rating 0.57. The Johnson Knights are coming off of one of the most dominating wins they have had in a long time.

Last Friday night they held East Hall to minus 7 yards on 23 rushing attempts. The Vikings were able to complete three passes out of six attempts for 89 yards, however, Johnson was ahead in the fourth quarter, 42-0, before East Hall was able to get a score on the board.

Running back Mantevius Rucker rushed for 128 yards on 19 attempts, an average of 6.7 yards per attempt. Quarterback Anthony Prophet had another fine day running, averaging 17 yards per rush on seven attempts. Prophet had by far his most productive day throwing the ball, he completed 3 of 4 passes for 91 yards, an average of 22.8 yards per attempt.

On Friday, the Knights travel to Gainesville to play a game in which the Red Elephants will be heavily favored. Three years ago Johnson pulled off one of the biggest upsets we have seen in the last 18 seasons when they beat a very good Gainesville team at City Park, 33-31.

6. WEST HALL (0-8): Average points scored 19.6, Average points allowed 45.3, Power Rating 0.43. The Spartans were off last week and have had two weeks to prepare for Friday’s game at East Hall.

7. EAST HALL (0-8): Average points scored 5.9, Average points allowed 38.1, Power Rating 0.15. This young football team is coming off a 42-6 loss to the Johnson Knights.

Against Johnson, the Vikings could not get much of a running game going on offense, but in the fourth quarter, freshman quarterback Zach Groover came into the game, and was 3-for-4 passing and threw a 60-yard touchdown pass. That had to be an exciting moment for the young quarterback.

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. His opinions do not reflect that of The Times.

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