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Gainesville overcomes scrappy Clarke Central, 56-28

POSTED: October 18, 2013 10:46 p.m.

ATHENS — Even with a slow start on offense, Friday night’s game proved that once the Gainesville offense starts rolling, it is hard to stop.

Behind a 28-0 run in the first half, the Red Elephants defeated Clarke Central 56-28 at Billy Henderson Stadium.

“They (Clarke Central) never stopped fighting,” Gainesville head coach Bruce Miller said. “They were coming at us the whole time, and our guys just kept scratching and clawing. It looked like our offense did a great job of moving the ball down (the field) when they had to, and getting some scores out of it.”

The Red Elephants’ (7-1, 6-0 Region 8-AAAAA) offense was led by senior quarterback Deshaun Watson who accounted for six of the team’s eight touchdowns.

He was 26-of-36 passing for 237 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 67 yards on 11 carries and had two touchdowns. Watson also racked up 20 receiving yards and pulled off the offensive hat trick, scoring on a reception as well.

Gainesville senior wide receiver Jay Gaudlock hauled in 10 of Watson’s passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns.

Junior running back Michael Byrd added 82 yards on the ground and caught seven passes for 52 yards and one touchdown.

The Gladiators (5-2, 4-1) were led by senior quarterback Cameron Johnson who went 23 of 28 for 256 yards and two touchdowns.

Junior wide receiver Marcus Campbell racked up seven catches for 81 yards.

After holding the Red Elephants’ offense to a three-and-out on the game’s opening drive, the Gladiators’ offense struck first when Johnson connected with his senior fullback Baylor Ward for a 13-yard touchdown strike with 8:18 left in the first quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Gainesville junior Orrin Ragland dashed 96 yards to tie the game at 7-7.

The return was the start of the 28-0 run by the Red Elephants to close out the first half.

Watson found Gaudlock for a 16-yard touchdown strike with 11:25 left in the first half to give the Red Elephants the lead at 14-7 with 11:25 left in the second quarter.

On the ensuing possession, Gainesville senior linebacker Devan Stringer recovered a Gladiators’ fumble. Seven plays later, Watson scored from 1 yard out to give the Red Elephants the lead at 21-7 with 8:58 left in the first half.

“The defense kept scratching and clawing, and finally, we held them out of the end zone,” Miller said. “Then, we got the turnover right there at the end and that just flipped all the momentum then.”

The Elephants’ defense finished the game with four sacks and recovered two fumbles.

After forcing a Gladiators’ three-and-out, Watson struck again, hitting Byrd on an 11-yard touchdown strike with 5:30 left.

“We kind of started off a little slow,” Watson said. “We weren’t getting the first downs and taking care of the ball, but after awhile, our defense stood up. We started clicking, and once our offense started clicking then it’s hard to stop us.”

With the half winding down, Watson found Gaudlock again, connecting on a 25-yard strike. It was Watson’s fourth touchdown of the half.

“When you face a team like Gainesville and their caliber, and you give up a touchdown return, they get the momentum swing back again, it’s to recover from that,” Clarke Central head coach Ahren Self said. “I thought our kids played hard. Defensively, we didn’t tackle well tonight. If you don’t tackle and you don’t wrap up, they (Gainesville) make you pay.”

After halftime, the Gladiators’ offense started clicking as Johnson found senior wide receiver Jaquan Dowdy for a touchdown with 9:45 left in the quarter.

Watson responded, scoring his fifth touchdown of the game on a 4-yard run to open the lead back up for the Red Elephants.

On the Gladiators’ next possession, sophomore running back Jaqua Daniels hit Austin Johnson on a 23-yard halfback touchdown pass.

“We came in after halftime and I was happy to see we came back. We fought and we didn’t give up,” Self said.

On the Red Elephants’ next possession backup quarterback Mikey Gonzalez connected with Watson on a 7-yard strike; Watson’s sixth touchdown of the game.

Gonzalez threw another touchdown to junior Rodney Lackey in the fourth quarter.

“We just had to go out there and play hard, and play as a team,” Gaudlock said. “Everybody played hard. Everybody had a good night. We all worked together to get this (win).”

Next week, Gainesville is off. Clarke Central comes to Hall County in a showdown against Flowery Branch.


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