Posted: Saturday, September 8th 2012 at 2:02am
Red Elephants overcome mistakes, shock Buford on road
By Jeff Hart Staff
Gainesville's Quamon Peoples, right, tracks down Buford's Korie Rogers on a pass attempt during the Red Elephants' 19-15 win on Friday in Buford. Peoples knocked the ball loose for an incompletion.
BUFORD -– If Gainesville’s Deshaun Watson wasn’t already considered one of the state’s best quarterbacks, his performance Friday night against perennial power Buford should seal the deal.
The junior put four interceptions behind him and carried the Elephants on his shoulders in the fourth quarter, engineering the biggest upset in the state on the young season, leading Gainesville to a stunning 19-15 win at Tom Riden Stadium.
“Deshaun never really gets rattled and he just kept throwing,” said Gainesville coach Bruce Miller, who beat Buford for the first time ever. “Even with (the picks) we just kept to our plan and he kept throwing and running. He made great decisions most of the game.”
Watson, playing out of the shotgun exclusively out of the no-huddle, combined for 287 yards (191 passing, 3 TDs, 4 INTs, 113 rushing) against a Buford defense that allowed less than 200 against Elbert County last week. He connected with Jay Gaudlock on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 7:51 left in the game and then, after the Gainesville defense forced Buford to punt with 5:30 left, he and the offense ran out the rest of the clock on a masterful drive into Buford territory.
“That last drive may have been the best one,” Miller said. “We needed him to run the ball and make good decisions and he did that. I think he showed what kind of player he is and can be.”
Watson’s game-winning drive and TD pass came immediately after the Wolves, who had trailed the entire third quarter, took the lead 15-12 on a 67-yard bomb from Taylor Mitchell to Tre Neal with 9:20 left in the game.
But Gainesville Keyontra Harrison took the ensuing kickoff into Buford territory and Watson’s pass to Gaudlock completed the comeback.
“That was a play we practice a lot and we had it open most of the night,” said Watson, who had overthrown his receiver twice earlier on the same play. “I wasn’t going to miss that time and Jay made a good catch. But really the whole team played pretty well. It’s just amazing to be able to come in here and get a win. I’ve been waiting a couple of years for this and it feels good.”
While the Gainesville offense was piling up 341 total yards, the Elephants defense clamped down on the usually potent Wolves rushing attack. Gainesville held Buford to just 68 yards rushing on 30 carries and just 212 yards total for the game.
“The defense was probably the star of the game,” Miller said. “They did a tremendous job on holding their running game down. It was just a total team effort. I don’t think we could’ve asked any more from these guys.”
After last week’s disappointing loss West Forsyth, Miller said they needed a confidence-builder.
“We were a little down after last week because we didn’t feel we played up to our capabilities,” he said. “Winning a game like this shows that we can play with anybody and the guys realize what they need to do to beat the best teams in the state. This should give us a lot of confidence going forward. We really needed it.”
Buford created the first break of the game picking off a deflected Watson pass at the Gainesville 20 and then Zavior Hoxie gave the Wolves a 7-0 lead four plays later on an 8-yard run.
Buford got another interception on a long pass from Watson but Gainesville defense forced a quick three-and-out.
Watson then began to really get the Gainesville offense going. Watson moved the Elephants into Buford territory with a 25-yard run and then connected with Gaudlock four plays later on a 6-yard pass to pull within 7-6. Buford blocked the extra point.
The Wolves got a huge kickoff return from Thomas Wilson to the Gainesville 32 on the next play but again the Elephants held and Petroni missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.
The Elephants were on the move again when Watson connected with Caleb Hayman on a 30-yard pass but the Wolves stripped him of the ball and returned it to the Gainesville 48. But again, the Elephants forced a quick three-and-out and a Buford punt to the Gainesville 13 with just over a minute left in the half.
Two plays later Watson and Hayman would connect on a 67-yard pass to the Buford 8 with 28 seconds left and on 3rd-and-goal Rodney Lackey snatched a twice-deflected pass out of the air in the back of the end zone to give the Red Elephants a 12-7 lead. Watson was stopped on a two-point conversion to tie the game.
Gaudlock finished with two catches for 27 yards and one touchdown and Lackey had nine catches for 67 yards. Hayman had three catches for 77 yards.
Mike Byrd had 33 yards rushing for Gainesville, but 26 came on the final drive to help the Elephants run out the clock.
Buford was led Mitchell, who finished 6-for-11 for 121 yards and one touchdown, and Mikey Bart had four catches for 41 yards. Neal had two catches, including his long touchdown, and Wilson had two catches. Hoxie had 48 yards rushing on 16 carries for the Wolves.
Buford............7....0....0....8 -- 15
Gainesville....0...12....0....7 -- 19
Buf – Hoxie 2 run (Petroni kick) 1:16, 7-0
GHS – Gaudlock 6 pass from Watson (kick blocked) 5:30, 7-6
GHS – Lackey 8 pass from Watson (pass failed) :08, 12-7
Buf – Neal 69 pass from Mitchell (pass to Bart) 9:20, 15-12
GHS – Gaudlock 21 pass from Watson (Turner kick) 7:51, 19-15
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