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Football Player of the Week: Gainesville's Deshaun Watson

Freshman's 2 TD performance leads Red Elephants to region title

POSTED: November 8, 2010 7:21 p.m.

High school football Player of the Week

Gainesville High freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Going into the 2010 season, the biggest question at Gainesville High was how well freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson could direct a Red Elephant offense that made it to the state finals last season.

If a season of good decisions and strong game management hadn’t already answered that question, Watson’s performance last Friday night in the Region 8-AAA title game certainly should have.

The freshman went 13-for-25 for 241 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Red Elephants to a 21-7 victory over White County.

For his efforts, Watson is The Times Football Player of the Week.

Watson has thrown for 1,759 yards and 17 touchdowns with a completion percentage of just over 60 for Gainesville (9-1), which will play host to Haralson County (3-7) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at City Park in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs.

Watson said he never really felt any pressure this season, despite replacing The Times 2009 Football Player of the Year Blake Sims, who is now at the University of Alabama, and credits his teammates with making him feel comfortable.

“The players got my back and they’ve been talking to me,” Watson said. “They just said ‘calm down, go out there and play your game’ and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

One person who is not surprised by Watson’s performance this season is Gainesville coach Bruce Miller.

Miller said he didn’t hesitate when he handed the offense to Watson at the start of the season and that the freshman has done a “great job of winning the older players’ respect.”

“I saw him all through the summer in a passing league and then at camp,” Miller said. “At camp we played against several Class AAAAA schools and I saw how he handled the pressure and that he looked pretty comfortable. He’s a quiet leader on the field.”

The Red Elephants didn’t get off to a comfortable start Friday night.

The first play of the game for Gainesville was a 25-yard loss on a ball snapped over A.J. Johnson’s head. The second play was a fumble and recovery on a backwards pass for another loss and the third was a punt to get out of trouble.

White County scored on the ensuing drive and Gainesville found itself down 7-0 halfway through the first quarter.

Miller said that his team didn’t let the bad start deter it from its goal.

“This group just keeps fighting; they have that in them,” Miller said. “And it’s nothing I’ve done, they just do it.”

Despite Miller’s denials, Watson claims it was the coaches who kept the team from getting down.

“After the first two drives and the bad field position the coaches just said ‘short memory, just go to the next play,’” Watson said. “And I think we did a very good job of putting that into the past and moving on.”

The biggest play of the game for Watson came in the third quarter.

Leading 14-7 and starting a drive on their own 1-yard line, the Red Elephants got some breathing room on a 6-yard carry from Devon Pierce on first down. On the next play, Watson found receiver Michael Lorentz, who scampered 92 yards into the end zone to give Gainesville a more comfortable 21-7 lead.

Lorentz finished the game with 96 yards and two touchdowns on two catches to highlight a receiving group that was evenly used by Watson.

Pierce came out of the backfield to catch three balls for 13 yards, Stephen Mason had 32 yards on three catches and Markece Roberton snagged two balls for 57 yards.

Watson said that he feels no added pressure in his first trip to the state playoffs.

“I just have to keep doing what I’m doing,” Watson said.

Miller said he is stressing that the playoffs are a “totally different season” to his players.

“When you play in the state playoffs you are playing with the 32 best teams in the state in your classification. Every week is sudden death,” said Miller. “We don’t even look at records or rankings, because our guys know that any Friday night any team is capable of beating somebody.”


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