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Red Elephants remain top team in power rankings
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At the end of week 5 the Hall County football players have created the following power ratings. As the season goes on I take into consideration the following criteria: Head-to-head competitions, record, ratio of points scored vs. points allowed and 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 half of the season. Two of the great lessons of competitive sports are learning to bounce back from defeat and to be humble in victory. 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, we found some stats were 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 (5-0)

Average Points Scored 33.8: Average Points Allowed 2.8: Power Rating 12.07: Last Friday, the Red Elephants proved themselves superior in all phases of the game against West Hall. The final score of 43-0 pretty well reflects the game that I saw. Let’s break it down. The Red Elephants ran the ball 35 times for 133 yards for an average of 3.8 yards per attempt, not great numbers, but good enough to force the Spartans to play the run, which opened up the very effective Gainesville pass offense. On defense against the run this marvelous Gainesville defense held West Hall to an average of .56 yards per carry on 40 rushing attempts, while putting incredible pressure on West Hall’s exceptionally talented passer Shunquez Stephens, severely limiting his effectiveness. Five Red Elephants had terrific games on defense. Brock Boleman and A. J. Johnson led the pass rush, Free safety T. J. Jones and cornerback Xavier Ervin led the pass defense, and Phillip Gaines from his inside linebacker spot roamed from sideline to sideline making it almost impossible for West Hall to run. The Blake Sims led passing game, again, put up winning numbers, with some assistance from sophomore quarterback Mike Norman. Gainesville completed 60 percent of its passes to nine different receivers averaging 12.63 yards per pass attempt. Sims threw one interception, but these are clearly winning numbers. The Red Elephant offensive line is the most effective group of blockers I have seen this season. Senior center Nick Williams leads a group made up of six junior offensive linemen, who do a superb job of protecting the quarterback, while opening up the holes for the Gainesville running game. The other members of this elite group of blockers are Taylor Stowe, Michael Waters, Jacob Couch, Sloan Strickland, Dave McConnell and Greg Stenzel. Friday night, Gainesville takes on their toughest opponent so far this season when they travel to play 5-0 West Forsyth. This season, the Wolverines have matched the Red Elephants point for point, they have both averaged between 33 and 34 points a game on offense. This high powered West Forsyth offense has not had to match up with any defense as effective as the Gainesville defense, which has yielded an average of 2.8 points per games. The West Forsyth defense has allowed 15 points per game, which is good but not dominating. This may be Gainesville’s toughest test of the season.

2. Flowery Branch (4-1)

Average Points Scored 31.8: Average Points Allowed 14: Power Rating 2.27: Last year after five games, the Falcons had a power rating of 4.37 suggesting this very good Flowery Branch team is not quite as powerful as the 2007 team. Last Friday night, these Falcons took control of a gritty Johnson squad. The Flowery Branch offense was hitting on all cylinders with the perfectly balanced offense (163 yards on the ground and 168 yards through the air). A balanced offense is tough to defense and is predicated on attacking the opponents weakness. Run the ball when the opponent is committed to playing pass defense, and throw when they have positioned the defenders to play run defense. On defense, you can chose to put an extra defender in the box in situations your opponents does not have enough blockers to block everybody, but at the cost of putting all your pass defenders in one-on-one situations. Flowery Branch has almost always tried to stay balanced. Against the Knights, they averaged 14 yards per pass attempt while averaging five yards per rush. Both are winning numbers. With the Branch spread offense they can put receivers in position to be the pitch man on the option, allowing them to get some of their fastest players on the perimeter attacking a defensive weakness with their fastest players. Rodriquez Frazier scored two touchdowns in his only two carries, one for 58 yards. Johnson obviously decided before the game, they wanted to take Connor Shaw’s keep option away from him, forcing him to put the ball into Daniel Drummond’s hands or pitching to one of his wide receiver/halfbacks. This was one more good night for the Flowery Branch defense, playing a bend but don’t break style allowing 301 total yards but allowing only seven points. The Falcon pass defenders do a good job of keeping the receivers in front of them and then playing the ball in the air. They yielded some passing yardage, but they came away with two interceptions and kept themselves in position to make the tackle in the event of a completion. Friday game is a short trip to West Hall, where their success will be highly dependent on their ability to control West Hall’s passing game.

3. Chestatee (2-2)

Average Points Scored 27: Average Points Allowed 21.75: The War Eagles dominated Pickens with the most balanced offense they’ve shown all season long. Always a potent running team with one of the area’s best runners, they put strong passing statistics on the board against the Dragons. Ethan Souther completed 67 percent of his pass attempts with more than 12 yards per completion. Chestatee’s quarterback spread the ball to four different receivers, with Justin Byers (four receptions, 91 yards) and Spencer Gruenenfelder (three catches, 38 yards). This put real pressure on the Pickens defense which had to contend with a very strong running game. War Eagles junior running back Ben Souther had another great night averaging 10.75 yards per carry. Jonathon Cain and Chase Vasser led a very aggressive defense which held the Dragons to 14 points. Friday night, Lumpkin County (2-2) visits Chestatee. Both teams are 1-0 in subregion play and the winner puts themselves with a leg up in terms of making the playoffs.

4. West Hall (3-2)

Average Points Scored 19.4 Average Points Allowed 19.4: Last Friday night, the Gainesville front seven, using a combination on linemen and linebackers, put tremendous pressure on Spartans quarterback Shunquez Stephens, which really took away West Hall’s best weapons. West Hall is as good as anybody at throwing and catching the football, but even the best passers need some time to let their receivers get open and to deliver them the football. The Spartans were held to 0.56 per run and the blistering Gainesville pass defense held West Hall to 4.6 yards per pass attempt, allowing only a 38 percent completion rate while intercepting two of the West Hall passes. Stephens has some fine receivers. They know how to get open and are tough to cover. Marquez Stephens, Rodney Gibson, Kyle Weatherly and Terrell Penland are all having very productive seasons catching the football for West Hall. The Spartan pass offense will be in for a real test against Flowery Branch’s pass defense on Friday.

5. North Hall (2-2)

Average Points Scored 19 Average Points Allowed 25.5 Power Rating 0.75: I am not sure if everybody knows how good a football team that North Hall beat last Friday night. Prior to last Friday, Creekview hadn’t lost a game by more than three points and all were to teams which had strong winning records. North Hall is getting better each week. The Trojans are always a very strong team fundamentally, their execution gets better as each player learns from each game that they play. Last Friday night, North Hall averaged over six yards per play on 37 running plays, which is a dominating number and wing-T football at it’s very best. The Trojans only threw the ball eight times, but averaged over 10 yards per pass attempt, which included a 48 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Blayne Gilmer to receiver Graham Duncan. The Trojan defense played good but not great. They held Creekview to 4.1 yards per rush and allowed an average of 8.64 yards per pass attempt and kept Creekview to a 40-percent completion rate. The Trojans dominated the turnover battle, recovering two of Creekview’s three fumbles and intercepting two of Creekview’s passes. I think the North Hall’s game against White County in Cleveland Friday is going to be a great game. These two teams are evenly matched.

6. Johnson (1-4)

Average Points Scored 19.6 Average Points Allowed 31.2 Power Rating 0.63: The statistics from last Friday night’s Flowery Branch game indicated the score should have been much closer than 41-7. Flowery Branch had 331 total yards on offense, while Johnson had 301 total yards. Clearly, Flowery Branch ran the ball more effectively averaging 5.09 yards per carry while the Knights averaged only 3.83 yards per carry. Johnson completed 78 percent of its pass attempts, while Flowery Branch completed 67 percent. Johnson averaged an excellent 13 yards per pass attempt, while Flowery Branch did even better by averaging 14 yards per pass attempt. In a game which was evenly played, it was a blow out in terms of points. Let’s look at the turnovers, Flowery Branch intercepted a pair of Johnson passes and recovered one of Johnson’s four fumbles. Flowery Branch didn’t throw any interceptions and recovered both of their own fumbles.

7. East Hall (1-4)

Average Points Scored 12.2: Average Points Allowed 31.8: Power Rating 0.38: The Vikings lost big last Friday night to undefeated West Forsyth, 56-0. The East Hall running game was not great, but they were able to average 3.52 yards per attempt on 25 attempts. The Vikings completed 53 percent of their pass attempts, but were intercepted five times making it almost impossible to keep the game competitive. East Hall also lost a fumble. No team wins when the turnover battle is that lopsided. The Viking receiving core caught 15 passes. Kody Ryles, Andrew Ivester and Judd Robinson each caught three passes, Marcellous Moon and Javonte Meddow each had a pair of receptions for East Hall.

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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