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Player of the Week: Deshaun Watson

POSTED: September 6, 2011 12:22 a.m.

Coming off the program’s first shutout defeat since 2004, the Gainesville Red Elephants were in need of a lift on Friday — for their offense and for their spirits.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson provided both. The sophomore helped the Red Elephants rebound from a humbling 49-0 loss to Buford in the season opener with an equally uplifting 40-3 win over White County. 

“That makes getting up on Saturday morning a lot easier,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. 

The Red Elephants (1-1) got contributions from a variety of sources in all phases of the game, but the bulk of the credit goes to Watson, who completed  21 of 30 passing for 249 yards, ran nine times for 83 yards and accounted for four touchdowns.

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

Recapping the quarterback’s performance Friday, Miller sounds like he’s checking off a coach’s wish list.

“I thought (Watson) was excellent,” Miller said. “He did a great job of directing our offense. He checked out of a few bad plays and got us into some good plays. He ran the ball for close to 80 yards. He threw for right at 250. He spread the ball around; we had nine different receivers catch passes. He was just the complete team leader and team quarterback Friday.”

As strong as the showing was, it couldn’t be altogether unexpected. As a freshman last season, Watson passed for more than 2,000 yards and rushed for more than 500 in leading the Red Elephants to their third consecutive region championship.

Though many pieces from last year’s team have graduated, Gainesville showed Friday — in a rematch of last year’s region title game — that it’s not ready to relinquish the crown. 

Stephen Mason, who also serves as Watson’s back-up, led the team with 10 receptions and 79 yards; junior Kenyontra Harrison had 45 rushing yards and 35 receiving, scoring a pair of touchdowns, and the revamped defense held the Warriors to 101 rushing yards on 33 carries and just 10 yards through the air.

For Gainesville, though, success starts at the quarterback position, and Miller said he sees growth in his young signal caller. 

“I think it’s what you’d probably call field awareness,” Miller said when asked about the difference in Watson since last season. “He’s aware of a lot of things going on on the field. He was last year, but he’s so sure of himself this year when he comes off the field and tells you something. He’s like having an extra coach on the field.”

The Red Elephants now have two weeks to prepare for their next game, and it’s a big one — the annual battle with rival North Hall. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at Bobby Gruhn Field.



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