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Gainesville defense turns the tide in second half

Red Elephants shut down White County attack for 30-7 victory

POSTED: September 16, 2008 5:01 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

White County quarterback Chantz Segraves hands off to running back Blake Limbaugh during Friday's game against Gainesville at City Park.

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On a night when Gainesville's offense came down to earth, its defense played out of this world.

Trailing 7-0 at the half, the Red Elephants held White County to minus-18 yards in the third quarter, helping No. 8-ranked Gainesville (3-0) beat the Warriors (1-2) 30-7 on Friday at City Park Stadium.

"We just stepped up to the plate and started playing hard," said Gainesville sophomore linebacker A.J. Johnson, who led the team with 11 tackles, recovered a fumble and recorded a safety.

"We had a bad start," Johnson added. "But we came with it in the second half."

After getting worked for 171 yards in the first half, Johnson and seniors Phillip Gaines and Josh Jackson helped the Red Elephants' defense turn the game around in the third quarter.

After a fumble by Gainesville, the Red Elephants forced a fumble on White County's ensuing possession, giving the ball back to their offense.

That offense, which was limited to 59 yards in the first half, scored on the next play. Blake Sims found T.J. Jones, who streaked down the field, hurdled a would-be tackle and dove into the end zone to tie the game.

"That switched the momentum completely," said Jones, who was so dehydrated after the game that he required intravenous fluids. "(White County) gave us a lot more than we thought they would."

Jones' touchdown was the start of a 30-point scoring spree by the Red Elephants.

While Gainesville was scoring at will, its defense made sure White County's score remained the same.

The Warriors went three and out on four of their seven second-half possessions, and including penalties on the offense, had minus-10 yards of offense after halftime.

"Thank goodness our defensive coaches made some adjustments," Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. "We couldn't get in a rhythm offensively, and all of a sudden our defense starts getting in a rhythm and we started making some plays and the tide just kind of turned."

Which was much needed, seeing how the first half played out.

On the first play of the drive, the Warriors ran the ball 12 times for 65 yards, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by sophomore Ashely Lowery, who finished the game with 67 yards rushing on 16 carries.

The opening drive lasted nearly seven minutes, and it appeared as if Gainesville's defense would be no match for the Warriors' offensive line.

"I was afraid they'd do that," Miller said of the way White County started the game. "They're one of the biggest teams we'll see all year."

While White County's offensive line put pressure on Gainesville's defense, the Warriors' defensive line put intense pressure on Gainesville's quarterback.

Sims, who entered the game completing 76 percent of his passes for 520 yards and four touchdowns, completed only four passes for 18 yards and threw two interceptions.

He finished the game 10-for-16 for 140 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions, all by White County's Kevin Frederick, who led the state with seven interceptions in 2007, according to White County coach Gregg Segraves.

"We felt we were going to be in the game at halftime," said Segraves, whose team limited the high-powered Red Elephants offense to 59 yards and controlled the ball for more than 18 minutes of the first half. "We felt like we could play with them, but we spent a lot of energy in the first half."

Energy that the Red Elephants hope will be on their side for the next game, when they visit rival North Hall at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Brickyard.

White County plays host to West Hall (3-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.



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