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Clausen: North Hall tough to beat with great run game
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Since I can generally see one game, and at times parts of two games, I try to see a game that will educate me on our Hall County public school football teams.

Therefore, last Friday night, we made the trip to Jefferson to see the defending Class AA state champions take on a well-coached, highly-motivated North Hall.

Driving over there, I suspected that Jefferson would prevail. I knew it would be a tough contest, since North Hall is never an easy win.

They’re going to play hard, they’ll have a good gameplan, and coach Bob Christmas and his staff adjust quickly when their players are confronted with the unexpected. Hall County football had a great weekend, with five wins out of six games. In six games, all played against out-of-county opponents.

The Hall County teams scored 271 points while allowing 151 points by their opponents.

When you bring your team across the county lines to play one of our teams, bring your lunch, it’s going to be an all-day job. In my years as a high school football coach in New Mexico and California, I never had to coach against teams that were as well coached and well prepared as I’ve seen here in Hall County and we were better than average.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I can’t think of a better place for a retired football coach to live than Hall County, where all the kids get very high quality coaching, not only in football but in life.

1. North Hall (3-0), Power rating 2.49; Average Points Scored 45.67; Average Points Allowed 18.33 — When I see two Hall County teams play each other, I’m always a non-partisan. I respect our coaches and the efforts they get from their team each Friday night.

But cross that county line as North Hall did to play defending Class AA State Champion Jefferson, and I’m no longer non-partisan. I went to cheer Bob Christmas’s splendid football team.

When your running game averages 7 yards a carry on 60 carries, those unnamed guys wearing 50s, 60s and 70s are dominating the line of scrimmage play after play after play.

Evan Shirreffs, Jefferson’s quarterback, averaged 7.22 yards per pass attempt and completed 20 out of 41 attempts. He was forced to pass since the Trojans’ tough defensive front held the Jefferson running game to less than 3 yards a carry.

Do the math. Those numbers can’t win.

Because of the North Hall strong running game, their fine quarterback, Andrew Smith, was only called to pass once and completed it for a 33-yard gain and a touchdown. When you have a good consistent running game like the Trojans, players tend to cheat up to help stop the run, making them vulnerable for the long touchdown pass created by play action.

The Trojans are off Friday night, but will host Dawson County on Sept. 27.

2. West Hall (2-1), Power rating 2.72; Average Points Scored 32.67; Average Points Allowed: 12.00 — West Hall went to Dahlonega and was led by Kwon Williams with 202 yards, including two touchdowns of 75 yards and 73 yards — and three touchdowns.

Ty Statham added 113 yards on 4 carries and a touchdown to boost the total offense to 503 yards.

Zach English, West Hall’s fine field general, completed 6 of 9 passes for two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Spartans looks to improve each week and each week they execute a little better than the one before. Friday night West Hall opens up region play against Banks County.

3. Gainesville (2-1-0) Power rating 1.09; Average Points Scored; 46.67; Average Points Allowed 22.00 — I probably lose a little credibility with the readers when I rate Gainesville third, particularly when they are coming off a 68-0 victory over Winder-Barrow.

However, I go by the numbers.

The Red Elephants tend to schedule tough non-region opponents. Win or lose this keeps their margin of victory down and gives them a lower power rating.

We have seen historically Gainesville gets better every week. And a tough early schedule mentally prepares their players for a run at the state championship.

The Red Elephants are not a team with low expectations.

Deshaun Watson, Gainesville’s outstanding quarterback, completed 19 out of 27 passes for 310 total yards and 4 touchdowns. In the beginning of the game he achieved 10,000 yards passing for his career. That’s some accomplishment.

Michael Byrd rushed for 95 yards on nine carries and seven catches for 105 yards.

In this game with this kind of lead, coach Bruce Miller was able to play some young players who had very impressive statistics. When Deshaun and his crew move on there is a very talented bunch ready to take their place. Friday night they go on the road and play Apalachee.

4. East Hall (2-1) Power rating 1.82; Average Points Scored 47.33; Average Points Allowed 26 — East Hall played East Jackson and scored 67 points — the most points scored by them since 2002 — and held their opponent to 37 points. Tomorrow night East Hall takes their 2-1 record to Johnson in Oakwood.

Bryan Gray has done a fine job of using the speed of his players to blend it into his offensive and defensive concepts. Not always as big as their opponents his players are quick, agile and well trained.

Looks like there is going to be a mighty fine game in Oakwood tomorrow night when Vikings comes to play the Knights. Both programs are improving programs and this is a chance for the winning team to take a step up.

5. Chestatee (1-1) Power rating 0.64; Average Points Scored 15; Average Points Allowed 23.5 — Chestatee had a bye this last Friday night, so they’ve had two weeks to get ready to play the region opener tomorrow night at Eastside.

6. Flowery Branch (1-2) Power rating 0.75; Average Points Scored 22; Average Allowed 29.33 — Flowery Branch Falcons are a running football team. Jemon Randolph rushed for 201 yards, with 48 coming in the first half.

Good running football has two advantages.

One, it often allows you to control the clock and keep possession away from your opponent, plus the defensive player who climbs off the pile looks to the sticks and realizes they’ve just given up another 4- or 5-yard run.

Over the long haul this is demoralizing, and the defensive player starts to realize in the middle of the three-touchdown quarter if not sooner that he and his teammates are losing the battle.

Flowery Branch High School is a back-to-the-basics running football team. In previous years with the incredibly talented Shaw brothers, the Falcons were more balanced because they had an equally effective passing game.

A good coach looks at his talent and decides to run an offense that takes advantage of their players’ talents.

While the Falcons are clearly a run first team, their fine quarterback, Jackson McDonald, threw for 163 yards and two touchdowns Friday night.

McDonald averaged better than 10 yards per pass attempt. Those are winning passing numbers in any league.

Friday the Falcons travel to Loganville. For a team like Flowery Branch reasonably has high expectations every game is important and they can’t afford a let down.

7. Johnson (1-3) Power rating 0.34; Average Points Scored 11.75; Average Points Allowed 35 — Last Friday night, the Johnson Knights lost to North Murray 34-7.

However, Luis Hernandez had an impressive game as he averaged better than 4 yards a carry on 13 attempts and had 43 yards receiving with one touchdown. Jesse Griggs led the team in rushing averaging 6 yards per carry on 17 carries.

Johnson was not able to get much out of its passing game and had one completion and one interception on 5 attempts for a total of 43 yards.

Tomorrow’s game will be played at Johnson High school as they host East Hall. This will be a big game for both teams, as the winner will have some momentum going into the rest of the season.

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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