Posted: Saturday, August 31st 2013 at 3:00am
Gainesville rolls Wolverines after slow start, 58-28
By Morgan Lee Editor
Gainesville's Colton Quinones reaches for a West Forsyth ball carrier on Friday in the Red Elephants' 58-28 victory in Cumming. / photo: David Weikel
CUMMING -- It was not the start Gainesville would have wanted.
But the finish was pretty darned impressive.
Trailing West Forsyth 14-3 with 5:09 left in the first quarter, the Red Elephants showed the kind of explosive play that helped bring Gainesville the 2012 Class AAAAA crown, outscoring the Wolverines 55-14 en route to a 58-28 victory in Cumming.
The Red Elephants rolled up 661 yards on the night, including 496 through the air -- 383 of that for senior standout Deshaun Watson. But it was Gainesville’s defense that turned the tide, halting West Forsyth’s fast start in the second quarter.
After watching the Wolverines score on each of their first three possessions, the top-ranked Red Elephants (1-0) began to clamp down, allowing the Red Elephants offense to vault ahead 24-21 on an inch-perfect touchdown pass from Watson to Orrin Ragland with 2:52 left in the half.
Seconds later Gainesville linebacker Devan Stringer put an exclamation point on the comeback, picking off Hampton McConnell’s pass near midfield to set up a Watson-to-Chris Williamson scoring strike. The touchdown pushed the Red Elephants ahead 31-21 at the interval and gave the visitors firm control of the contest.
“Devan’s interception turned the whole momentum of the game around,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. “We just kept fighting back and fighting back, and that really tipped it for us there before the half.”
Gainesville allowed just one more touchdown the rest of the way, and by the time West Forsyth running back Trevor O’Brian scored early in the fourth quarter, the Red Elephants held a 52-28 advantage.
“It says a lot for our kids and coaches that nobody panicked there early,” Miller said. “We just needed a couple of stops, and we got them and started rolling.”
Offense was never in doubt for the Red Elephants on Friday, as Watson rushed for 70 yards and completed 28 of 42 passes for four scores – hooking up with nine different receivers in the process. Jay Gaudlock proved his most reliable outlet, hauling in 10 catches for 183 yards and a score. Chastin Newman, Josh Holderfield and Michael Byrd also caught touchdown passes, while Byrd also rushed 18 times for 78 yards two scores.
The way things started, it looked as though Gainesville would need every single yard.
West Forsyth, which finished with 334 yards of offense -- 202 on the ground -- took the opening kickoff into Gainesville territory and proceeded to rip off big plays through the air and on the ground en route to a 14-3 lead after McConnell scored on a 1-yard plunge and back-up quarterback John Conway lofted a scoring pass to Kyron Ochocki.
Yet Gainesville found its touchdown touch on its second possession, following a 28-yard field goal from Gage Turner on its first drive, and stayed in step with West Forsyth the rest of the way -- until the Red Elephants defense collared the Wolverines in the second quarter.
The victory avenged a two-point loss to West Forsyth in last year’s season-opener and set up a showdown next week with defending Class AAA champ Buford at City Park.
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