Halfway through the season I have no doubt Flowery Branch has the best football team in Hall County.
The Falcons have played great defense from the start, and now they are putting up championship numbers on offense.
I am very comfortable with Gainesville at No. 2; they are a young team getting better, they have a fine young quarterback, and, when called upon, a power running game which would be tough for anybody to stop.
The Red Elephants also play championship-caliber defense led by A. J. Johnson, a linebacker and one of the best players at any position in the state.
Chestatee and North Hall are about even, and that one will be decided in Northwest Hall County on Friday night between 7:30 and 10 p.m.
I’m excited about East Hall (Hall County’s smallest public school) starting to play teams from schools which have comparable enrollment.
1. Flowery Branch (5-0) Power Rating 4.00, points scored 200 (40.0), points allowed 50 (10.0)
Because the Falcons have moved to Class AAAA they no longer play the other Hall County teams, but against the AAAA teams they have played, they not only won, they dominated.
However, the five teams they have beaten have only won 31 percent of their games; the tougher part of the Falcons’ schedule is still ahead of them. Appalachee is the only winning team they have beaten so far, but they may be among the very best AAAA teams in the state.
The Falcons started the season with a great defense, but only a little above average offense. Austin Brown, a first-year starter in the Flowery Branch system, gets better each week and the Branch offense is starting look like the Jaybo-and-Connor-Shaw-led offenses we saw during the last five seasons. Brown’s passing stats last Friday night against Rockdale County were championship caliber. In 24 pass attempts he completed just short of 88 percent of his passes and averaged more than 11 yards per attempt with no interceptions.
With what I have seen Flowery Branch do on offense, opposing defenses can’t double the wide receivers without allowing the Falcon offense to outnumber you in the running game. These Falcons are one tough night of football for anybody they will play.
The Falcons have this Friday night off and will play at Habersham Central on Oct. 8.
2. Gainesville (3-1) Power Rating 1.20, points scored 98 (24.5), points allowed 82 (20.5)
I put Gainesville ahead of Chestatee for two reasons: the Red Elephants have a better record, and in my opinion, it was earned against a tougher schedule.
Last Friday night the Red Elephants averaged 7 yards per carry, led by freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson (nine carries, 8.4 per carry). A quarterback running out of the spread formation is tough to stop because on defense you are forced to spread secondary and linebackers all over the field to defend the pass. Watson threw 17 times, completing passes to five different receivers and averaging 7.8 yards per pass attempt.
The Red Elephants fumbled two times and lost both fumbles, but they threw no interceptions. The average team turns the ball over 2.3 times a game, (that’s lost fumbles and interceptions). Statistics tell us if you turn the ball over five times, you will lose almost 90 percent of the time.
This is a solid, well-disciplined football team; not as mature or as talented as last year’s team, but it is going to be a full day’s work for anybody Gainesville plays.
Friday night, the Red Elephants play host to the Johnson Knights. Gainesville should be a big favorite, however, the Johnson coaching staff prepared and then executed the biggest upset I have seen in the last 20 years when the Knights defeated Gainesville in 2006.
3. Chestatee (2-2) Power Rating 1.65, points scored 117 (29.3), points allowed 71 (17.8)
As the War Eagles found out last Friday night in Monroe, this is a much improved Monroe Area team.
Monroe Area’s defense, going into the War Eagle game, had allowed an average of only 5.3 points per game.
Both teams are triple option football teams, which can be an advantage if you are playing another team which does not run the option and has only one week of practice to prepare.
The Purple Hurricanes dominated the line of scrimmage and were able to average 7.7 yards per carry on 35 rushing attempts. Chestatee was able to average 4.1 yards per carry running many of the same plays.
The War Eagles must now turn their attention to a big rivalry game as they get ready to play host to North Hall.
Both the War Eagles and the Trojans go into the game with 2-2 records, and at this point it should be a very even game.
This has to be an exciting week at both schools. If you are non-partisan like me and just enjoy great competition, the Chestatee stadium is going to be an exciting place Friday night.
4. North Hall (2-2) Power Rating 0.96, points scored 85 (21.3), points allowed 89 (22.3)
In spite of the power rating, I would rate Chestatee and North Hall dead even. Both have the same record, but because the Trojans played their first three games without two of their better players, North Hall enters Week 6 as a much stronger team than the Trojan team which played in their first three games.
Imani Cross, who I have watched in previous seasons at Flowery Branch, is now healthy and starting to play.
Coming off of a torn Achilles tendon, coach Bob Christmas has eased the junior running back into action.
Mack VanGorder led the Trojans last week, averaging an incredible 19 yards per carry.
With quarterback Kanler Coker, who broke on the scene last year late in the Flowery Branch game, the Trojans have one of North Georgia’s top passing threats. North Hall was never easy to defend, but Coker and his receivers have made it harder. Coker was 10 for 19 and threw three touchdown passes last Friday night against Walnut Grove.
Winning 40-0 at halftime, North Hall played the last half with its young players. It is a real credit to them to pitch a shut out.
Friday night, the Trojans meet Chestatee in a big rivalry game pitting two very evenly matched football teams with identical records.
5. West Hall (2-2) Power Rating 0.71, points scored 77 (25.7), points allowed 109 (36.3)
The Spartans had last Friday night off and play host to Walnut Grove on Friday night . Walnut Grove is coming off a 40-0 loss to the North Hall Trojans and are winless in four games so far in this season.
6. East Hall (1-3) Power Rating 0.55, points scored 75 (25.0), points allowed 136 (45.3)
After have last week off, Friday night is an important subregion game at Rabun County, which is 1-3 and has a power rating of .55. I think we are going find that the Vikings will be very competitive in their subregion games.
7. Johnson (0-4) Power Rating 0.44, points scored 55 (13.7), points allowed 125 (31.24)
The Knights lost to Lumpkin County 34-13 last Friday night. Lumpkin County has started to prove they have one of North Georgia’s better football teams.
The Knights’ defense held the Indians to 5.8 yards per rush, but they allowed 15 yards per pass attempt. The Johnson running game averaged 4.9 yards per rush and for all practical purposes had no passing game.
Johnson only attempted five passes, completing one for 9 yards and one interception.
Friday night the Knights travel to play the Red Elephants in Gainesville. Johnson is always small in numbers, but the ones who play are tough and fearless. You can bet they will give a great effort Friday night; they know no other way.
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.