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Clausen: Gainesville's powerful offense will be tested in semifinals
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Gainesville High School, like a lot of top high school teams around the country, has a very loyal alumni fan base.

They have a history of winning — many of the players started watching the Red Elephants as young boys when their parents took them to the games.

Many have been thinking, dreaming and talking about playing for a champion football team. Gainesville has earned its way to the top floor.

One more win tomorrow night will allow many of these players to take a big step closer to their dream. When they hand you one of those red jerseys, it comes with the high expectations from the Gainesville alums who long ago started a tradition of playing football at a high level.

When it gets to this time of the year it’s hard for me as an ardent football fan to measure the strength of the team from over the hill.

If you look at the one common opponent Gainesville and Tucker have played, M. L. King High, the score would indicate Tucker has the stronger offense while the Red Elephants have the stronger defense.

That doesn’t always mean much since many coaches call off the dogs when they have a substantial lead in the fourth quarter.

The one thing we know is both teams play championship level football. And a lot like Ohio State, Michigan, Southern Cal, UCLA or Georgia and Alabama, the game comes down to a battle of wills by two teams with high expectations. It’s competitive sports at its very best!

1. Gainesville (12-1, Region 8 AAAAA, 10-0) - PR 2.91; Average Points Scored 49.23; Average Points Allowed 16.92 — This year’s Gainesville offense looks like the most productive one I’ve seen in the last 20 years.

Deshaun Watson and his fine receiving corps are a defensive coach’s nightmare. Try too hard to stop the pass and the offensive line and the running backs will average more than five yards a carry.

As an old defensive coach, those kinds of numbers don’t work. When you have a quarterback who completes 24 of 30 passes for 389 yards of total offense and six touchdowns, that leaves you very little room for error on the defense.

What also makes Gainesville’s offense so tough is Deshaun spreading the ball to all five of his eligible receivers — Jay Gaudlock, Michael Byrd, Rodney Lackey, Chastin Newman and Orrin Ragland.

J.D. Sosebee has had a great year leading the Red Elephant defense.

He’s had 165 tackles, and you can bet there are defensive linemen giving up their body taking double teams, keeping their linebackers clean so they can flow to the football.

Great defense is the ultimate team game.

Some of the real stars are hidden under a pile where they took a double team out.

However, the team you play from over the hill, who we don’t know a lot about, has earned their way to this point in the playoffs. The easy ones are all in the rearview mirror.

The next guy is probably as good as you are, so it’s a battle of wills. This time of the year, when Gainesville crosses the county line, we can now be partisan.

2. Tucker (13-0, Region 6-AAAAA, 9-0) - PR 3.36; Average Points Scored 42.93; Average Points Allowed 12.79 — Gainesville heads for Tucker tomorrow night, where they will play probably the best defensive team they have played all year.

Tucker is 13-0 and experts think they have the best defense left in the playoffs.

However, it’s unlikely that they have played an offense as well balanced as this year’s Red Elephants.
Pick your poison — defend the run and Deshaun will find the open receiver, placing the ball where it’s hard to defend. 

Tucker is loaded with Division-I college recruits, but at this time of the year there’s no easy way. Gainesville’s defense will make you earn every yard, every pass completion and every run.

Surprise them and they adjust quickly and force you into Plan B. Buckle your seatbelts, folks, this will be one heck of a game.

High school football at its very best — two great teams that have been dreaming about this kind of game for a long time.

This year’s Gainesville team deserves to have its picture put in the trophy case with the long list of teams that have come before.

Go Red Elephants!

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.

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