We’ve now seen three weeks of Hall County high school football. Last Friday night, we went to City Park Stadium to see Gainesville take on Buford. I knew going into the game that Buford was loaded with Division-I college prospects. And I also knew that win, lose or draw, this would be a good contest for Bruce Miller’s tough-minded Red Elephants. This is the kind of game that prepares your players to make a run at the playoffs and another possible state championship.
Six out of the seven Hall County teams played this past Friday night. Four of our teams played each other and two played outside the county. It looks to me like our local coaches, for the most part, have scheduled tough teams for the non-region opponents. This affects our players by making them mentally ready for the playoffs. In the event they make the playoffs, the players know what it’s like to compete against the best, and it tends to give them inner self-confidence whether they win or lose. And in the long run, that’s the lesson our coaches are imparting to our players that will last a lifetime.
There is an interesting statistic, which was valid when I was coaching in the NFL, and I believe it is applicable to the high school football that I see. If a team turns the ball over four times, they will lose 90 percent of the time. On average, a team turns the ball over two times a game. Nobody wants to turn it over at all, but you can see what an important statistic it is.
1. North Hall (2-0) PR 4.57; Average Points 48; Average Allowed 10.5 — I know I’ve probably said this before, but when I think of North Hall, I think of strong, physical linemen. They look like they were raised in a weight room. North Hall completely dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball when they played Johnson last Friday night. The Trojan defense held Johnson to 20 yards in the first half and went into halftime with a 22-0 lead. Four touchdowns in the third quarter put the game out of reach, which led to their 63-6 victory.
On Friday, they travel to Jefferson to take on the Class AA state champions from 2012. Playing a defending state champion team is a good non-region game and prepares your players for a run at the state championship at the end of the year. If you like exciting high school football, the trip to Jefferson to see North Hall play may well be worth the trip.
2. West Hall (1-1) PR 3.27; Average Points 24.5; Average Allowed 7.5 — The Spartans lost to Chestatee when the War Eagles went for two points and made it. West Hall put itself in a position to make a field goal attempt with 20 seconds remaining in the game. The kick went wide left. This game was an example of how closely matched the Hall County teams are. Antonio Pittman rushed for 54 yards on 16 carries, helping the Spartans control the clock and a game that came down to the end. West Hall’s Zach English completed 12 of 22 attempts for 166 yards, giving the Spartans offense good balance. West Hall travels to Dahlonega to play Lumpkin County Friday night. It should be a good game.
3. East Hall (1-1) PR 1.83; Average Points 37.5; Average Allowed 20.5 — Coming off of a bye this past Friday night, East Hall has enjoyed two weeks to prepare for East Jackson on Friday.
4. Gainesville (1-1) PR 1.09; Average Points 36; Average Allowed 33 — The Buford High School football program attracts college scouts from all over the country. And you can bet the parents of the top athletes in North Georgia know about it. I was at the Gainesville-Buford game and was surprised it was not more competitive, since the Red Elephants had won the previous year. Having coached in games where we had lost to one of our bigger opponents, it sticks in your mind. All during the offseason the coaching staff is studying what they have to do to win next year’s game. When I was at Ohio State, we lost one year to Michigan. I promise you, every night for the next year, the coaching staff thought about what we had to do to beat the Wolverines. Believe me when I say it stuck in the craw.
Gainesville will bounce back. Its players and coaches are mentally tough. They will learn from their loss and go into Friday night against Winder-Barrow at home ready to win.
5. Chestatee (1-1) PR 0.64; Average Points 15; Average Allowed 23.5 — The Chestatee War Eagles won last Friday night against West Hall with a gutsy 2-point conversion. We can only imagine how they felt with 20 seconds remaining, when the Spartans attempted a game-winning field goal and it went wide left. This was an example of two teams who slugged it out for 48 minutes and combined for more than 500 yards between them.
War Eagles coach Stan Luttrell showed great confidence in his players when he went for two point to win the game when an extra point would have guaranteed him a tie. Luttrell tends to bet big on his players. Chestatee opens Region 8-AAAA play with a trip to Eastside on Sept. 20.
6. Flowery Branch (0-2) PR 0.43; Average Points 13.5; Average Allowed 31.5 — West Forsyth’s duo tandem of Gabe Pierce and Trevor O’Brien combined for 197 yards and four touchdowns. Flowery Branch’s defense yielded 428 yards of offense including 288 yards in the first half alone. In spite of these statistics, Flowery Branch was down only 28-21 with three minutes to play and moving toward the tying touchdown, but a West Forsyth cornerback intercepted the ball and ended the drive. After reviewing the statistics, the Flowery Branch-West Forsyth game was close in almost every category. It was a tightly fought game. Flowery Branch plays host to Flowery Branch on Friday.
7. Johnson (1-2) PR 0.38; Average Points 13.33; Average Allowed 35.33 — North Hall dominated Johnson 63-6. Trojans coach Bob Christmas has a well-established program at North Hall. His players have been playing his brand of football since the seventh grade. Johnson has a second-year coach. His players are getting good fundamental coaching.
They play hard and it will take a bit of time for his program to be competitive with all the strong high school football programs we have in Hall County. Johnson’s Jesse Griggs was able to rush for 75 yards on 19 carries and played hard. Neither Johnson, nor North Hall, relied much on their passing game, but Johnson fumbled twice, losing both fumbles. The teams threw one interception apiece. Johnson visits North Murray on Friday.
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.