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Players of the week: Deshaun Watson and Tray Harrison

POSTED: November 7, 2011 10:10 p.m.

 

Friday’s game between Gainesville and Stephens County was supposed to be a showdown of the two best teams in Region 8-AAA.

Instead, it became a showcase for two Red Elephant stars.

Sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson led the potent offense to 62 points with 340 yards and five touchdowns on 18 of 28 passing. He added 86 yards and two scores on the ground. Four of his five touchdown passes went to one receiver, junior Tray Harrison, who totaled seven catches for 179 yards to go with the four scores.

It was Harrison’s best offensive performance of the season, in which he has 498 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving. For Watson, it was the second time he has accounted for seven or more touchdowns in a single game.

For their efforts, they have been named The Times co-Players of the Week.

With the exception of its opener, a 49-0 loss to Buford, Gainesville’s offense has made it look easy all year long.

Behind Watson’s electric arm, the Red Elephants have scored at least 40 points in every game since the opener, averaging more than 49 points per contest in that period.

Watson has now accounted for 39 touchdowns this season, 30 through the air and nine on the ground.

Assuming it has been that easy, however, would be a mistake, according to Harrison.

“We prepare hard all week,” Harrison said. “Everything we do is a product of what we’ve worked on all year.

“We study every day on film, then me and Deshaun talk about what plays we should do when we look at the defense. We work on it in practice, prepare and, hopefully, execute it on Friday.”

The team’s success can largely be narrowed down to the rapport between Watson and his receivers. It’s a connection coach Bruce Miller said they work on throughout the week.

In addition to Harrison’s big numbers, receivers Stephen Mason, Justin Cantrell and Lahius Leverette have each caught more than 20 passes this season. Mason and Cantrell have scored eight touchdowns, while Leverette has scored five.

According to Miller, the players on the field, his quarterback in particular, have a lot of leeway with the play that is being called. Both Watson and his receivers have developed in their ability to communicate holes they see in the defense without saying anything to each other.

“They talk to each other with hand signals so that everybody knows what the other person is doing,” Miller said. “Sometimes we’ll have to ask what (Watson) is calling during the game because we don’t know the hand signals.”

It’s an amazing ability for young players like these, he said.

Harrison compared the connection to another prolific Gainesville duo, Tai-ler Jones and Blake Sims.

“It’s one thing I learned since I was a freshman and saw the connection those guys had with each other,” he said. “I felt like if I had a strong connection with Deshaun, and start that out early, then we’d know what to do in more situations when we got older.”

It appears to have worked out.

“They’ve progressed steadily throughout the year,” Miller said. “It’s amazing how much better these kids are than at the beginning of the year, even.”

Miller stressed Harrison’s athletic ability and noted how important it was to get him touches throughout the game.

He said the coaches keep a chart to record touches and if Harrison hasn’t gotten enough in the first half, they will make it a point of emphasis in the second.

“He’s so good with the football in his hands,” Miller said. “We’ll script 14 or 15 plays before the game, and if Tray isn’t touching it four or five of those plays, something’s wrong.”

For Watson, the question becomes how good he can be.

As a sophomore, he is already leading one of the top offenses in the area, has a scholarship offer from Clemson and has plenty of room to grow.

Miller pointed out that while he wouldn’t consider it a weakness, he’d like to see Watson continue to get stronger.

And if he does?

“It could be scary by the time he’s a junior or senior,” Miller said. “If he keeps progressing, it’s amazing what he, and we, could do.”

 



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