When I entered coaching in 1963, I coached one year at Gallup High School after playing high school and college football in New Mexico.
High school football in Southeast New Mexico is like West Texas football — good coaching staffs, nice lighted high school stadiums and great crowds on Friday nights. It’s not that different from what we, North Georgia football fans, see in the Gainesville area every Friday night.
In addition to seeing at least one game every Friday night during the season, I often stand outside the fence and watch some really talented football coaches. The Hall County high school football player is fundamentally sound and has earned the right to be on the field under the lights on Friday nights because he’s paid the price demanded by the splendid teacher/coaches who have chosen to live and coach in the Gainesville/Hall County area.
All the Hall County football teams have now played at least one game, while East Hall and Johnson have played two apiece. Each week during the season, the power rating numbers become more valid in determining the relative strength that the players have demonstrated on Friday night.
Last year’s top-rated team, Gainesville, was not only the best in Hall County, it was the Georgia state champion in Class AAAAA. We also were really fortunate to have three other teams in the playoffs, one of them in the semifinals, so we can really look forward to another great football season.
Among the thousands and thousands of high school football players, only a very few get a championship ring commemorating their achievement. There are special relationships that they developed with their coaches and teammates as they strived to win the region championship and pursued the opportunity to prove that they were the best team.
1. West Hall (1-0-0) PR 35.0; Average Points 35.00; Average Allowed 00.00 — West Hall is 1-0 having beaten Johnson the first week. They had a bye last week and have been preparing to play Chestatee tomorrow night. Go cheer for each of your teams and enjoy.
2. North Hall (1-0-0) PR 2.20; Average Points 33.00; Average Allowed 15.00 — When the Trojans’ rushing attack averages almost eight yards per carry on 43 carries, you can bet their offensive line was dominating the line of scrimmage. Largely because of the dominance of the line, Andrew Smith, North Hall’s fine new quarterback, was not forced to go to the air very often. He threw for a total of 26 yards, connecting on 3 of 4 passes, which came at critical times and allowed the Trojans to maintain possession of the ball.
Tomorrow night North Hall visits Johnson, which is coming off a 34-8 victory over Oglethorpe. Should be a good game.
3. Gainesville (1-0-0) PR 2.07; Average points 58.00; Average allowed 28.00 — It looks to me like the Red Elephants are going to put another dominating football team on the field led by Deshaun Watson, one of the most talented high school quarterbacks I’ve seen in North Georgia in the last 21 years. He’s got a strong arm and is able to deliver the ball in places where it’s easy for his guys to catch and terribly hard for the pass defender to defend.
Watson threw for 362 yards and four touchdowns last week against West Forsyth.
As a longtime defensive coach, Deshaun was the type of quarterback that kept me from sleeping well the week before the game. The Red Elephants’ extraordinary balance makes them extremely hard to defend. Try too hard to defend the run, they’ll beat you passing; try to defend the pass and they’ll run the ball down your throat. West Forsyth’s offense had the Red Elephant defense off balance early in the game, but after the adjustments were made the defense dominated West Forsyth’s offense the rest of the game. Buford is coming to City Park on Friday night, giving the North Georgia football fan an opportunity to see two of the best high school football programs playing. Come early.
4. East Hall (1-1-0) PR 1.83; Average scored 37.50; Average allowed 20.50 — There’s another Watson in Hall County football (other than Deshaun) whose performance level suggests that he may be an outstanding college prospect. The great high school quarterback is usually one of the team’s best athletes; he’s smart and he has terrific instincts. These words would define two fine quarterbacks in Hall County — both named Watson. Devin Watson at East Hall completed 22 of 30 pass attempts for 294 yards and two touchdowns, plus he added 92 more yards on the ground and scored two touchdowns rushing. You can’t possibly put up these kinds of passing stats without a fine receiving corps and outstanding blocking out front. Though they don’t often get their names in the paper, you can bet Devin knows these are among his best friends. Smart players, they seem to learn and improve each week. You’d be surprised, at the college and pro level, that some of your best linebackers and defensive ends were high school quarterbacks.
5. Johnson (1-1-0) PR 0.79; Average points 17.00; Average Allowed 21.50 — One of the great lessons we learned from sports as we were growing up was to bounce back from defeat. This Johnson team is a great example of resilient players and a positive-minded coaching staff. After being shut out in their opener 35-0, the Johnson players and coaches resolved to get better. It’s a credit to Jason Roquemore and his senior leadership to bounce back so strongly. They beat Oglethorpe 34-8, dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. Tomorrow night Johnson hosts North Hall.
This should be a good game. North Hall’s a fine football team, but Johnson’s football players have proven to be tough-minded and are willing to play hard for four full quarters.
6. Chestatee (0-1-0) PR 0.45; Average Points 15.00; Average Allowed 33.00 — Chestatee was beaten 33-15 by a strong North Hall team. I saw the game and in my opinion Chestatee and North Hall are pretty evenly matched, but North Hall got the momentum in the second quarter and went ahead 14-0 at halftime.
Chestatee relied almost completely on a good running game. They averaged 3.28 per carry but completed 1 of 8 passes for 2 yards. They also lost two fumbles. The War Eagles’ top runners were Wyatt Burgess (3.9 per carry) and Blake Buffington (3.7 per carry), but penalties and turnovers kept the team always fighting out of a hole.
I think we’re going to find as the season goes on this is a pretty good football team. The things that put the War Eagles behind North Hall are all correctable. If their coaches and players put their heads together and correct these errors, future opponents are going to find the War Eagles represent one tough night of football.
Friday night Chestatee hosts West Hall, which should be a great football game — they are evenly matched.
7. Flowery Branch (0-1-0) PR 0.21; Average Scored 6.00; Average allowed 28 — The Flowery Branch defense was unable to control the line of scrimmage Friday night. Northside Warner Robbins was able to average 6.4 yards on 40 carries. That means Northside controlled the line, controlled the clock and controlled the game. It was a tough night for the Falcons, whose defense yielded one touchdown per quarter. Jackson McDonald for Flowery Branch passed for 90 yards and a score. Total offense was 268 yards, including 170 on the ground. West Forsyth is coming into the Branch Friday night coming off a 58-28 loss to Gainesville.
This will be an interesting game; both teams have something to prove.
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.