After one full week of high school football, we have enough games to start the power ratings. Johnson, who I have seen, looks significantly improved over last year, and the Knights are playing with a new confidence. Betsy and I also saw the Gainesville—West Forsyth game. It looked early like West Forsyth was going to dominate and win in a blowout, however, the Red Elephant does not know how to quit and throw in the towel. You just make him madder, he just plays harder and with more intensity. I sat behind the Gainesville bench and could see coach Bruce Miller’s fine staff continually making adjustments.
1. Johnson (2-0) Power Rating 1.62, Average Points 27.5, Average Allowed 17: This year Johnson has a new coach and the players are playing with a new attitude. I have always felt the Johnson players were tough and played hard, but I have never seen them play with the confidence they have been playing with the last couple of weeks. When the Knights travel to North Hall Friday night, they will be playing the 1-0 Trojans, and this should be a great test. The Trojans are a more mature program and have a stronger history of winning. If they get on a winning bus Friday night, the Knights are for real and a team to be reckoned with.
2. North Hall (1-0) Power Rating 1.6, Average Points 32, Average Allowed 20: Coach Bob Christmas has developed a winning tradition at North Hall, through years his teams have been extremely well prepared. North Hall has good talent, but not overwhelming talent. North Hall winning 32-20 over rival Chestatee represented two good teams both playing up to their ability and the best team won. The Trojans rely on being well trained, smart and fundamentally sound. They can often outplay teams that seem to have more speed, because they make so few fundamental errors. I like the Johnson—North Hall game as a fan, I think it is an even matchup and could well be one of those great games which is won or lost on the last play.
3. East Hall (1-1) Power Rating .45, Average Points 14, Average Allowed 31: After a devastating defeat in their opener to Dawson County where they had been dominated in all phases of the game, the resilient Vikings bounced back with a 28-20 win over Chattooga on Aug. 31. East Hall is off this Friday, and Sept. 14 the Vikings host East Jackson. The Vikings have a history of getting stronger as the season progresses and a win at home will give them momentum as they move toward region play.
4. Gainesville (0-1) Power Rating .94, Average Points 30, Average Allowed 32: I know Gainesville’s power rating after a close loss to a powerful West Forsyth team probably underrepresented the Red Elephants’ true strength. These Red Elephants are a high character team. I have been to their practices, they remind me of “Woody Hayes’ Practices,” do it right or do it over until it’s right. Deshaun Watson, Gainesville’s fine junior quarterback, is the kind of athlete I was looking for then I was Ohio State’s national recruiter: Strong arm, tough, smart and makes excellent football decisions. Gainesville fell behind early against the Wolverines, but kept battling back and almost won. Coach Miller will have his players battle tested when it time for region play. Friday night the Red Elephants travel to Buford, one of our country’s very best football programs. The Wolves are loaded with college prospects and just the kind of team Gainesville needs to play as a nonregion game if you want your players to compete in the state playoffs. Gainesville has the mental toughness to play against anyone.
5. West Hall (0-1) Power Rating .68, Average Points 13, Average Allowed 19: It’s too early to tell with the West Hall Spartans. They played Johnson close and could have won, so we know they are competitive. They are a hard-hitting bunch with a new coach playing in a new system. Generally teams with a new coach in a new system improve most from Game 1 through Game 10, because they start pretty low on the learning curve. Coaches need to learn how to best use their athletes and that’s something you learn every week for the first three or four months. Friday night they host a Chestatee team with an almost identical power rating, so this should be a great contest.
6. Chestatee (0-1) Power Rating .63, Average Points 20, Average Allowed 32: Chestatee lost a rivalry game to North Hall last Friday night 32-20. I know this was a big game for the War Eagles since the school took many students from former North Hall areas. Chestatee is a triple option veer team (we call it Lou Holtz’s offense). The keys are great execution, but you are constantly running plays where you quarterback is deciding on the move who the final ball carrier is going to be. Hard to defend in one week of practice, so it’s best the play them the first week of the season. Depending on how many veteran starters you have, there is a lot of potential improvement from one week through Week 10. Tomorrow night the War Eagles travel to county opponent West Hall.
7. Flowery Branch (0-1) Power Rating .16, Average Points 7, Average Allowed 45: The Falcons went up against one of the state’s better teams in Northside-Warner Robins in the opener and, after reaching the half tied, couldn’t keep up in the second half. Flowery Branch, which is replacing many of the offensive stars from last season’s state quarterfinals team but returns much of the defense, has another stiff test Friday at West Forsyth (1-0), the team that held of Gainesville last week.