Friday night at Flowery Branch two of the very best quarterbacks in the state, who both lead fine football teams, face off against each other.
The evidence would suggest that Blake Sims of Gainesville plays for the overall strongest football team. But Conner Shaw of Flowery Branch leads an incredibly efficient and productive offense.
Gainesville, in my opinion has not played an offense as good week in and week out as Flowery Branch has turned out to be, however, nobody I have seen this year comes close to matching the Red Elephants on defense.
Games are not won or lost on paper and the best team does not always win, it’s the team who plays the best that wins. In games like the one we are going to see Friday night, the underdog has very little room for error: They can’t turn the ball over, they generally need an edge in the kicking game and they need to capitalize on every opportunity.
Gainesville has clearly shown through the first 10 weeks of the season that it has the better football team, but I have seen no evidence that Flowery Branch players won’t come prepared to take advantage of every opportunity.
1. GAINESVILLE (9-0): Average points scored 47.11, average points allowed 5.78, Power Rating 8.15. Nothing I saw last Friday night when I watched the Red Elephants demolish the Johnson Knights kept me from thinking that I might be looking at the best Class AAA team in the state.
Gainesville, during the first half, scored a touchdown every time it had the ball. If you looked at both benches you could see the tremendous advantage Gainesville has over Johnson. Johnson had the fewest players dressed and ready to play of any high school team I have seen in Class AAA football.
The players they had did not quit and they played bravely, but they were outmanned much like other schools Gainesville’s played.
Eight other outmanned teams came ahead of them on the Gainesville schedule. The Red Elephants scored on every possession of the first half, averaging 10.39 yards per rush and 11.33 per pass attempt.
Great blocking, skilled and gifted runners, one of the state’s best quarterbacks as well as one of the best receivers defines this high-performing offense.
The Red Elephant defense allowed 3.1 yards per rush, 1.57 yards per pass attempt. Friday night the Red Elephants travel south in what could be the biggest game of the regular season, because as good as they are, a loss could put them on the road during the first week of the 2009 playoffs.
2. NORTH HALL (7-2): Average points scored 32.11, average points allowed 17.22, Power Rating 1.86. Right now after 10 weeks of football, I have no doubt in my mind, that the Trojans have the second-best team in Hall County.
Since losing to Gainesville by 43 points in Week 3 they have improved each week. There is no comparison between the team we now see and the one which started the 2009 season.
Could they beat Gainesville? Probably not, but the Trojans are a lot better in Week 11 than they were when they played the Red Elephants. North Hall is really tough up front on both sides of the football. Their “big guys” don’t have to take a backseat to anybody.
The runners, and they have a bunch, fight hard and fight for every yard.
Last Friday night against Gilmer, they didn’t have a great night passing, averaging only 4 yards per pass attempt, but they ran the ball 55 times and averaged 5.51 yards per carry.
North Hall’s quarterbacks each threw an interception. In spite of the bad night passing, using two quarterbacks in the last half of the season like they have has greatly improved the passing game.
Passing for the Trojans is never going to be a big part of what they do. It is instead used as a way to keep the defense honest.
They know the linemen are going to put so much pressure on the opponents front seven, defenses are going to try and load the box on them, and they need the occasional big pass play to remind the opponents that might be a dangerous tactical decision.
3. FLOWERY BRANCH (7-2): Average points scored 45.11, average points allowed 22.22, Power Rating 2.03. Flowery Branch is playing offense right now as good as anybody, including Gainesville, and the Falcons stats would indicate they are slightly more efficient.
Flowery Branch had an open date last week and will play Gainesville on Friday night, in what I think is going to be the biggest game of the season.
4. CHESTATEE (4-5): Average points scored 16.67, average points allowed 27, Power Rating 0.62. The War Eagles lost last week to West Forsyth, a really good running football team.
The War Eagles allowed 9.25 yards per rush and the Wolverines leading runner, Ben Emert, averaged 16.1 yards on 12 carries. Chestatee was also hurt by its multiple turnovers.
The War Eagles had two passes intercepted and lost two fumbles. Ben Souther had another great night running for the War Eagles as he averaged 7.2 yards on 20 carries.
The Chestatee pass defense was fine, they allowed just 3.25 yards per pass attempt, a 37 percent completion average. Friday night the War Eagles close out their season in Canton against a very good Creekview team, whose only loss this season was to North Hall in Week 4.
5. JOHNSON (3-7): Average points scored 14.7, average points allowed 30.7, Power Rating 0.48 Johnson has some brave kids and those kids played hard against a much superior team last Friday night.
The Knights have one skilled player who stood out against the incredibly tough Red Elephants’ defense and that is quarterback Anthony Prophet.
He broke a couple of nice runs, something you seldom you see against North Georgia’s finest defensive team. I am sure a study of the tape would show a number of other Knights played well and from the stands, in spite of the lop-sided loss, you could see great effort.
The guy who will play hard for me in an overwhelming defeat is a guy who I would be most proud to coach.
6. EAST HALL (1-8): Average points scored 9, Average points Allowed 37, Power Rating 0.24. Great win for the Vikings last Friday night in clearly a most competitive game. In a scoring duel, East Hall beat West Hall 34-28.
Chaz Cheeks, The Times’ Player of the Week, led a defense where sacks and a key fumble recovery ended up being the key to victory.
East Hall had by far its best night on offense and put up pretty impressive numbers. The Vikings averaged 7.68 yards per running attempt and 12.5 yards per pass attempt while completing 3-of-4 attempts.
The defense played well allowing only 3.21 yards per rush and 7.31 yards per pass attempt.
East Hall made a line up switch which proved to be very effective, senior QB Desmon Gardner moved to wide receiver where he caught two passes for 45 key yards.
Freshman Zach Grover moved to quarterback where he was 3-of-4 passing, including two big completions to Gardner.
7. WEST HALL (0-9): Average points scored 20.56, Average points Allowed 44, Power Rating 0.47. In spite of the fact the Spartans had more total offense — 349 yards to 288 yards — they still lost to East Hall last Friday night in a close, hard-fought game.
Key turnovers and sacks by the East Hall defense were defining moments when the game was all over.
Shunquez Stephens hit 60 percent of his passes and had completions to six different receivers while under a pretty intense pressure from the Vikings pass rush. Friday night, it’s going to be West Forsyth against the Spartans’ passing game at West Hall in Oakwood.