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Posted: Thursday, August 28th 2014 at 4:25pm

Gonzalez ready to step into breach for Red Elephants (VIDEO)

By Morgan Lee Editor
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Gainesville's Mikey Gonzalez prepares to let rip on a pass attempt in a preseason scrimmage. Gonzalez will make his first start for the Red Elephants on Friday at Grayson. / photo: David Weikel
GAINESVILLE -- No one will ever confuse Mikey Gonzalez for Deshaun Watson -- and Gonzalez is fine with that.

In fact, the Gainesville High senior is sort of counting on it.

“Every single team we play will look at me and go, ‘oh he’s only 5-foot-9; oh he’s going to be nothing,’ ” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully I can show them what I can do and torch them.”

True, Gonzalez is not the 6-4, record-breaking Watson (now at Clemson) but if defenses judge him by his size -- or assume that the Red Elephants’ offense will drop off -- Gainesville coach Bruce Miller says there is a good chance those foes will end up extra crispy.

“He has been in the system for three years and has waited his turn. Second, he knows the system and was 19-2 as the JV starter in the same offense,” Miller said. “We’re not going to change what we do. Mikey knows how to run this offense, just in a different way than Deshaun.”

(NOTE: On the eve of Gainesville’s season opener, Friday Game Night editor Morgan Lee sat down with Gonzalez to talk about the big night ahead, the challenges of 2014 and just which quarterback the senior would like to emulate. To watch the full interview, simply click play in the box to the right. )

Gonzalez showed as much in numerous relief appearances over the past two seasons. As a junior he put up 686 yards passing, 10 touchdowns against just one interception and completed 68 percent of passes against varsity competition -- coming on after the Red Elephants had opened up big leads on several opponents.

“I was just trying to get prepared,” Gonzalez said. “I was with Deshaun every week in film watching what defenses do and how our offense works.”

That said, Gonzalez knows things will be markedly different as a varsity starter -- and he’s pumped about the chance to show his abilities in that role.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve prepared way harder than I did last year, and I can’t wait to get going.”

And while Gonzalez might not be as apt to tuck the ball and take off on a cross-field jaunt as Watson, his passing accuracy and ability to move within the pocket will keep plays going and make the Red Elephants’ spread attack just as dangerous.

“He is so good at getting the ball out quickly to guys in space,” Miller said. “He’s a good athlete in his own right, but he gets everyone involved.”

Indeed, Gonzalez -- who will be surrounded by plenty of speedy, athletic receivers and backs -- sees the Gainesville attack as a machine with plenty of moving parts.

“With what we do there’s always going to be someone open,” Gonzalez said. “I just have to read the defense and get it out there quick. The offense is going to stay the same, maybe there won’t be as as much running, but if they give me room I can take off. We just have to take what the defense gives us.”

Gainesville is not expecting a very giving foe in its opener, however.

Despite a 4-6 record in 2013, Grayson enters the 2014 campaign with high expectations, a No. 10 ranking in Class AAAAAA and -- like Gainesville -- a state championship in the recent past (2011). The Rams also have plenty of talent, including defensive end Justin Young, a 6-foot-3, 255-pound Georgia commit.

“They’re probably going to the best team we face until the playoffs,” Gonzalez said of Grayson. “We’ve just got to get the ball out fast to keep them from blitzing -- which they like to do. And we’ve got to play our offense and take advantage of what they give us.”

Gonzalez says he’s been so focused on the task at hand, he hasn’t even thought all that much about the moment fast approaching -- his first varsity start.

“It will probably hit me the first couple of games,” Gonzalez said.

What would you expect from a quarterback who says he would like to emulate future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. And like the Patriots star, Gonzalez said he simply wants to lead and get his teammates the ball.

“I’ve learned to trust my teammates, trust myself and play my game,” said Gonzalez, who has been a quarterback in Gainesville’s system since eighth grade. “My teammates know the offense really well. Everybody’s good, athletic, fast and smart.”

They’re also used to winning. And while -- like Gonzalez -- they may be stepping into leadership roles for the first time, their firsthand experience of success could prove huge as 2014 gets underway.

“Everyone around here is used to winning. We have the mindset we’re going to win,” Gonzalez said.

And Gonzalez will play a huge role in maintaining that mentality for Gainesville in 2014.

GAINESVILLE at GRAYSON
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: Grayson Community Stadium, Grayson
-- RADIO: 1240 AM
-- GAINESVILLE (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-AAAAA): Season-opener. The Red Elephants are ranked 6th in Class AAAAA.
-- GRAYSON (0-0, 0-0 Region 8-AAAAAA): Season-opener. The Rams are ranked 10th in Class AAAAAA.
-- HISTORY: First-ever meeting between the two schools. The Elephants will begin a new era without Deshaun Watson. Mikey Gonzalez takes the reigns of their spread attack. He will have plenty of weapons to work with in Sr. WR Rodney Lackey (59 receptions, 807 yards, 12 TDs), Sr. RB Michael Byrd (1,003 yards rushing, 13 TDs/627 yards receiving, 4 TDs), and Sr. WR Chris Williamson (24 receptions, 341 yards, 6 TDs). ... The Rams are coming off a losing season (4-6) but are just three years removed from a state title. They should have a solid defense led by Sr. DE Justin Young, a 6-foot-3, 255-pound Georgia commit.
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