During the first four weeks of the season, the seven public high schools in Hall County have played a total of 23 games.
Flowery Branch and East Hall have each played four; all others have played three. Of those games, Hall County schools are 12-11. In those games, the offenses have averaged scoring 25.1 points and the defenses have allowed an average of 25.8 points.
Flowery Branch (4-0) has scored the most total points, averaging 37.8 points per game. The Falcons also have the top defense, allowing on average 12.5 points per game. Chestatee (2-1) is actually averaging more points per game (39) through three games, and is right behind the Falcons on defense (14.7).
Both teams are scoring about two touchdowns more per game than the Hall County average, and the Falcons defense is allowing 12 points a game less than the average. The War Eagles defense is allowing about 10 points less per game than the average.
1. Flowery Branch (4-0) Power Rating 3.02, points scored 151 (37.8), points allowed 50 (12.5)
The Flowery Branch offense is hard for any defense to stop. First of all, they have some fine athletes and second, they run a balanced offense, and third, the spread option offense isolates defenders and forces the opponent to be ready to stop the option every play.
Twenty years ago and during most of my coaching life, we thought running the ball and taking full control of the line of scrimmage was the key to winning. Defensive coaches figured out that in order to stop the run, we can put one more defender in the box than you have blockers (1986 Chicago Bears). Against the Falcons offense, since it is basically balanced and spread out across the field, the defense cannot hide its intent.
It looks like Austin Brown, the quarterback, knows before the ball is snapped where the defense’s strength and weaknesses are. Since they run as much as they pass, a high percentage of the time the Falcons will run a play where the defense is either out numbered or at least no better than even.
Look at last Friday’s numbers vs. Cedar Shoals: Flowery Branch ran the ball 31 times and averaged 6 yards per run, while passing 21 times and averaging 11.9 yards per pass attempt.
On defense, the Falcons held 46 running plays to an average of 4 yards per carry and 19 pass attempts to 4.5 yards per attempt.
Neither team had an interception, but Flowery Branch had the only fumble recovery. In the games I have seen in person the last couple of years, Flowery Branch almost always wins the kicking game, they did again last Friday night.
Friday the Falcons play Rockdale County (2-2, power rating .58) at the Branch.
2. Chestatee (2-1) Power Rating 1.68, points scored 117 (39.0), points allowed 44 (14.7)
This team has played good football on both sides of the ball through three games. The War Eagles lead the county in points per game, and have a defense which is performing 10 points per game better than its Hall County peers.
Last Friday night, they averaged 4.3 yards per run out of their triple option offense, and an impressive 12.2 per pass attempt on 10 passes. Senior quarterback Scott Chewning is the trigger man of both the run and the pass.
Pearce Gruenenfieder is a big target and caught three passes for 72 yards, while reliable Alex Moore had one big catch for 46 yards. An improving passing game has turned out to be a good weapon to this fine veer option football team.
The War Eagles took complete control of the Dawson County offense, allowing just 2.3 yards per run and 5.8 per pass.
This will be a good War Eagles team which gets off the bus at Monroe Area on Friday. Monroe Area is in for a tough, physical night of football. The Purple Hurricanes (3-0) are coming off a 10-3 win over Lumpkin County.
3. Gainesville (2-1) Power Rating .93, points scored 70 (23.3), points allowed 75 (25.0)
A.J. Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound linebacker, was the difference maker in last Friday night’s game against North Hall.
Moved into the offensive backfield at the quarterback in the wildcat formation, Johnson carried the ball 17 times for 192 yards and scored all three of the Gainesville touchdowns.
I have admired Johnson’s skills as linebacker for the last couple of seasons. He has great lateral movement, a nose for the football and is one of the reasons the Red Elephants play defense as well as any team in North Georgia. Johnson led his team in tackles against the Trojans with 19.
Deshaun Watson, the freshman quarterback, continues to give Gainesville an excellent passing game. He completed 11 out of 18 passes for 121 yards for an average of 6.7 yards per attempt. Watson distributed the ball to four different receivers: Michael Lorentz (five catches for 35 yards) and Keyontra Harrison (3-37) led the receiving corps.
The Gainesville 3-4 defense held North Hall to 4 yards a carry running and 5.6 yards per pass attempt.
On Friday, always-tough Franklin County (2-0-1, power rating 1.61) plays Gainesville at City Park.
4. West Hall (2-2) Power Rating 0.71, points scored 77 (25.7), points allowed 109 (36.3)
Last Friday night, the Spartans lost to Stephens County, 45-17, in Toccoa. West Hall scored one touchdown on offense on a Shunquez Stephens 3-yard run, one on defense when senior linebacker William Stroup scooped up a fumble and ran it 15 yards for a score, and Ishmail Miranda kicked a 32-yard field goal.
I have seen Stephens County play a number of times through the years. Year in and year out the Indians play on a level which would make them competitive with Hall County’s best teams.
West Hall has Friday night off and next week plays host to Walnut Grove.
5. East Hall (1-3) Power Rating 0.55, points scored 75 (25.0), points allowed 136 (45.3)
Last Friday night in a 49-28 loss to Adairsville, East Hall once again demonstrated a solid running game, averaging 7.6 yards per run on 42 rushing attempts.
However, the Vikings defense allowed more than 10 yards per run on 44 runs. Neither team mounted much of a passing attack, but both teams had fumble problems — the Vikings fumbled six times and lost four; Adairsville fumbled five times and lost four.
Friday night is an important subregion game for the Vikings at Rabun County (1-3, power rating .55). I think we are going to find that the Vikings will be very competitive in 8A-AA.
6. North Hall (1-2) Power Rating 0.51, points scored 45 (15.0), points allowed 89 (29.7)
The Trojans have played the early part of the season without two of their best players. I suspect a month from now North Hall will be more competitive than it was last Friday night against Gainesville. The Red Elephants won 20-13, but the score is deceiving; Gainesville was superior in every statistical category. Gainesville won on first downs (22-16), yards per rush (7.2 to 4.1), passing yards (121-73), completion percentage (61-38) and total yards (456-244).
If in the event both of these teams play again in a region playoff, it will be a terrific game. Both North Hall and Gainesville get better as the season goes along; it won’t be the same game if these two teams played again.
Friday night the Trojans go on the road for the first time this season to play Walnut Grove (0-3, power rating 0.24).
7. Johnson (0-3) Power Rating 0.46, points scored 42 (14.0), points allowed 91 (30.3)
The Knights had last Friday off, and will be play host to Lumpkin County(2-1, power rating 3.13).
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.