I am going to make a couple of coaching observations I have been thinking about for a while.
In the football I see at the high school level, we basically two and half offenses (the 1/2 is the option football we see from either formation). First, there’s the spread (including the spread option), and then there’s the wing-T (including some option).
Defensive players learn to read keys from their position, which should immediately alert them as to what and where a play is being run and what their responsibility is in defending that play.
Linebackers are primarily involved in helping stop almost all running plays and over one half of the pass plays. Linebackers learn play recognition; they see through the blockers in front of them and see the backfield as the play starts to develop.
Linebackers and other players who spend most of training camp playing against their own offense are at a significant disadvantage when they play an offensive system different from the one they played against every day in practice. They get maybe 60 snaps in practice against their scout team who are running plays drawn on cards.
I thought of this as I watched Flowery Branch play Apalachee last Friday night. Apalachee, in addition to having some excellent runners, run out of the wing-T (a slot back on one side and wing back on the tight end side). The Flowery Branch defenders who had pitched eight quarters of shutout football, were a step slow in recognizing the wing-T plays and where the football was going to cross the line of scrimmage.
The Apalachee defensive players had the same problem recognizing the spread option plays coming at them.
Both of these teams are highly skilled; Apalachee had 560 yards rushing and the Falcons had 255 yards rushing and 316 yards passing. Both are talented enough to be region champs and should be competitive with the finest Class AAAA teams in Georgia.
1. Flowery Branch (3-0) Power Rating 2.89
Let’s look at the good first: The Falcons had great offense numbers. They averaged 7.3 yards per rush on 33 rushing attempts and 8.5 per attempt throwing the football. They played like a great offensive team last Friday night and it’s good thing they did, because that what it took to get a win against Apalachee.
The Wildcats had the most effective running game I have seen in the last 20 years; their sweeps and counters were almost unstoppable. They averaged 13 yards per rush on 43 running plays and if it had not been for the fact they had a couple of touchdown runs called back, Apalachee may of won the ball game.
The thing I like about the Falcons’ spread offense, it is pretty balanced and they are good at both running the football and passing the football. They have knack for running the ball when you are lined up to defend the pass, and passing the football when you are aligned to defend the run.
Because of the option running game, the defense must have players assigned to the dive, the keep and the pitch, but that doesn’t leave them with enough players left to double cover a wide receiver. You might get away with it on 3rd and long, however the option, dive, keep or pitch will get you long yardage if not defended.
Austin Brown, who had pretty average numbers in the first two games, put up great numbers passing the football. He finished last week with 316 yards passing and 8.5 per pass attempt — that will score a lot of points at any level of football.
With single coverage on the wide receivers, Flowery Branch threw deep a lot and it had the effect of the Aplachee corners playing pretty soft on intermediate routes.
Friday night the Falcons travel to Cedar Shoals (1-2, Power Rating .64).
2. Chestatee (1-1) Power Rating 1.68
Chestatee’s offense put on a show last Friday night at Johnson High, led by quarterback Scott Chewning.
On veer option team, the quarterback is the big “on-the-field” decision maker. A big run from either the dive, the keep or the pitch, means the quarterback found the defensive weakness on the move and allowed his team to pit strength against weakness.
No quarterback is perfect, but when you average 8.2 yards per rush and 17.4 yards per pass, those are numbers you can win with.
The War Eagle defense had a pretty good night even though it allowed 5.8 yards per rush. Johnson has an excellent run offense, and if your offense is controlling the football you can win with that number.
The War Eagle pass defense was fine, allowing 6 yards per pass attempt, a winning number.
Friday night Chestatee travels to Dawsonville to play Dawson County (0-2, Power Rating .23).
2. West Hall (2-1) Power Rating .94
You might asked why West Hall is tied for second when the Spartans beat Chestatee?
I put them tied since Chestatee has a much better power rating and I saw the game when the two played. If everything is pretty equal at the end of the season, West Hall will be rated ahead of Chestatee.
West Hall was manhandled last Friday night by a very good White County team. White County, which had a serious problem running the ball against the Red Elephants (1.7 per rush) averaged 5.5 yards per rush against the Spartan defense.
The Spartans averaged only 1.2 yards per rush against the Warrior defense. The Spartan played pretty impressive pass defense holding a fine Warrior pass offense to 5.4 yards per attempt.
Friday night the Spartans travel to Toccoa to play a solid Stephens County football team. The Indians have one win and one loss against two strong football teams and have a power rating of .88.
4. Gainesville (1-1) Power Rating 0.81
Coming off an open date, the Red Elephants have had two weeks prepare for what has become one of Hall County’s best rivalry games.
Gainesville (1-1) has played two very strong football teams. The Red Elephants lost the opener against AA power Buford, and then beat a good White County team. Now, it’s trip up to The Brickyard to take on North Hall.
5. East Hall (1-2) Power Rating 0.54
Turnovers and special teams breakdowns cost the Vikings a chance to be competitive against a very good Elbert County team last Friday night.
The Vikings averaged more than 7 yards per carry, a very good number. So far East Hall hasn’t shown much of a passing game, averaging only 2.9 per pass attempt on 10 pass attempts. The Vikings’ running game should set up good play-action pass opportunities.
Friday night, the Vikings play host to Adairsville (1-1, Power Rating 1.16).
6. North Hall (1-1) Power Rating 0.46
First of all, when the Trojans and Red Elephants face off I don’t have a dog in the fight. But I love the tradition and the intensity both teams bring to the field. North Hall has opened up with the toughest first three games of any team I can remember since I have been watching Hall County football.
Region 8-AA champ Jefferson, then perennial state power St. Pius X, and now last year’s state runner-up Gainesville. If you have developed a high-expectation program like they have at North Hall, you are asking your players to be the best. And if you are going to be the best you have to play the best. Frankly, I think it’s great.
Last Friday night playing without some of their top veterans, North Hall ran into one of the state’s best teams at their very best. Using the wing-T offense, very similar to North Hall, St. Pius dominated the line of scrimmage and averaged 8.4 yards per rush.
For all practical purposes St. Pius had no passing game, but with one of the states best running games, it didn’t need one.
St. Pius had 472 yards of total offense and held North Hall to 195 yards.
Friday night the Red Elephants come to the Brickyard. These are almost always great games.
7. Johnson (0-3) Power Rating 0.46
Last Friday night Johnson played host to Chestatee. Chestatee’s veteran quarterback Scott Chewning played with consistency, running and passing into the weakness of the Knights’ defense.
The Johnson defense allowed 8.2 yards per rush and 17.4 yards per pass attempt.
The Knights have Friday night off and the following week a very strong Lumpkin County team comes to Johnson. Right now Lumpkin County has a 5.1 power rating and the Knights can use the extra week of preparation.
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.