Two mighty fine and very successful groups of Hall County football players have won in the first round and move into the second round of the state playoffs. I have listed both, as well as each team’s two second round opponents and the two Hall teams which lost in Round 1, in the order of their power rating.
Kell has the best record (10-1), North Hall has the highest power rating (2.97), and yet a good case could be made that the Red Elephants might have the best team. I could make a strong argument either way.
After Friday night half the players will check in their uniforms and the other half will continue on a once in a lifetime journey with friends they will share stories with for a lifetime.
1. North Hall (9-2), PR 2.97, average points 42.18, points allowed 14.18: The North Hall Trojans roared into the second round of the playoffs with a smothering defense that allowed only 1.9 yards per carry on 25 carries in their playoff opener. This forced Woodward into many long yardage situations, forcing them to pass when the defense was prepared to play pass defense.
In coaching defense you would like to force your opponents into as many long yardage situations as possible. This is exactly what Bob Christmas’s defense did last Friday night. North Hall is a running team, but when they do pass they have had a very productive passing game. Largely because of the effectiveness of the North Hall rushing offense, defenses tend to cheat up on the run as the game progresses, opening up some excellent passing situations for the Trojan offense.
When we get to this point in the playoffs only the really good teams have survived, and from now on only great football allows a team to move on.
Friday night North Hall hosts Morgan County (9-2), which is coming off a first-round win over Gordon Central.
2. Kell (10-1), PR 2.13, average points 31.36, points allowed 14.73: Gainesville travels to Kell for the second round of the playoffs. Statistics indicate Gainesville may be playing against the best defense it have seen all year, but it is unlikely Kell has had to defend a better and more balanced offense then it will see from this year’s Red Elephants. Plus, Gainesville also has a mighty fine defense.
If you study the stats closely, you have to figure that if both teams are at their best, this game won’t be decided until late in the fourth quarter.
3. Gainesville (8-3), PR 2.05, average points 43.45, points allowed 21.18: The Red Elephants enter the second round of the playoffs coming off a dominant victory over Rome, where they were firing on all cylinders.
The Red Elephant team I’ve seen play can play with anybody, but in the second round of the playoffs they will be playing 48 minutes against a team which is as good as they are. This is the kind of game where often senior leadership takes over, because the next game Gainesville loses will be the last game most of the seniors will ever play.
The Red Elephants have great tradition, the alums, fans and former players are proud of the current players and live and die with them on each play.
Kell is good, but so are the Red Elephants. When Gainesville plays this kind of game I am reminded of some of the big games in my life I had the privilege of coaching.
4. Morgan County (9-2), PR 1.91, average points 33.91, points allowed 17.73: When a team earns the right to play in the second round of the state playoffs, it has earned this right with victories over some fine football teams.
Morgan County is North Hall’s opponent Friday. The stats I have seen suggest that North Hall should be a slight favorite. However, let me promise you this, once the ball is kicked off tomorrow night this won’t mean anything.
The seniors on both teams know they have a rare opportunity to leave a mark on their school’s football history and, for the losing team, it will be the last football game most of the seniors will ever play.
5. Chestatee (8-3), PR 1.39, average points 39.09, points allowed 28.09: When the regular season ended the Chestatee War Eagles finished ranked No. 2 in 8-AAAA. That’s one heck of an accomplishment for them or any team. The War Eagles played their hearts out each week, improved weekly and kept the momentum rising. Then, once in awhile a change of fortune happens and it seems that no matter what you do, mistakes happen and they keep coming.
The interceptions and penalties bit the War Eagles last Friday and they couldn’t quite come back, though heaven knows they never quit and continued pushing for success. War Eagles, you are really quality players and you have everything to be proud of. Job well done.
6. Flowery Branch (8-3), PR 1.26, average points 33.55, points allowed 26.55: The Flowery Branch Falcons are the 8-AAAAA champions. That’s quite a statement. Gentlemen, you really accomplished something. In Friday’s game they met up with North Paulding and made some fatal mistakes. The first half got away from the Falcons, yet they came back with a vengeance and scored 36 points and never gave up.
Unfortunately third downs on both sides of the ball really hurt the Falcons. But the pride and sense of accomplishment has to burst through when you realize you played your best every week, never gave in to the tough breaks and realized a region championship. Way to go, men.
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.