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Watson leads Gainesville into semifinals, 42-28

Red Elephants to play Tucker for berth in Class AAAAA final; coin flip to decide home team

POSTED: November 29, 2013 11:47 p.m.

THE BLITZ: Mundy's Mill at Gainesville

High school football highlights from Mundy's Mill at Gainesville, City Park, Nov. 29, 2013.

SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Mundy's Mill High running back Rodney Smith gets stuffed by the Gainesville High defense Friday night during the first half of their state quarterfinal game at City Park Stadium.

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Not even a tender left shoulder on quarterback Deshaun Watson or a potent Mundy’s Mill running game could keep Gainesville from earning a win in the state quarterfinals on Friday at City Park Stadium.

After Watson said he was hit late out of bounds in the first quarter, he proceeded to throw for four touchdowns and rush for two more as the Red Elephants (12-1) earned their third consecutive berth in the state semifinals with a 42-28 victory against the Tigers in Gainesville.

In the final quarter, it was the acrobatic touchdown run from the 12 and dive into the end zone by Watson that sealed the win and kept four turnovers from coming back to bite the Red Elephants.

“It feels great to be going back to the state semifinals,” said Watson, a Clemson signee who completed 24 of 30 throws for 344 yards. “We knew Mundy’s Mill was going to come out and compete hard, and it took a total team effort to get the win.”

With the win, Gainesville is set for its first-ever meeting against Tucker (13-0) in the semifinals Friday. The home location will be determined by a coin flip this morning.

“This is huge for our team to make it back to the final four,” said senior Red Elephants linebacker Devan Stringer. “We’ve talked all season about leaving a legacy here at Gainesville.”

Mundy’s Mill senior running back Rodney Smith kept it a back-and-forth battle for much of the night after rushing 32 times for 220 yards and a pair of scores. After Gainesville scored first on a 24-yard pass from Watson to running back Michael Byrd, Smith tied it up at 7-7 with a 75-yard run late in the first quarter.

It would be that way for much of the night. It the second quarter, Gainesville’s Jay Gaudlock had a 27-yard diving grab in the end zone to go back up 14-7. However, after an eight-play drive, Smith tied it up 14-14 with his second and final touchdown run from the 5.

Despite clearly playing with pain — and having his non-throwing shoulder massaged every time he went to the bench — Watson made one of the countless amazing plays of his career on his fourth-quarter touchdown run.

After snapping the ball from the 12, Watson scanned the field and saw an open lane to run. Gainesville’s quarterback pulled the ball down, ran for the corner and dove from the 3. After going airborne, Watson glanced off the shoulder of a Mundy’s Mill defender, causing him to spin midair like a helicopter blade, and landed in the end zone to go up 42-21 with only 5:48 left in the game.

After the game, Gainesville’s quarterback recalled running, jumping and closing his eyes on the touchdown run. Once he hit the turf, he only then realized he made it to the end zone for the critical score.

“My heart went into my throat when I saw him go into the air,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. “When he got up and was happy, I was happy.”

Even though the Red Elephants started the touchdown drive sluggishly, they made it deep on some costly Mundy’s Mill penalties. Facing fourth-and-2 after an 11-yard completion to Chastin Newman (five catches, 104 yards), the Tigers were called for an encroachment penalty and gave Gainesville a fresh set of downs.

After a 4-yard run by Michael Byrd two plays later for Gainesville and looking at third down, Mundy’s Mill drew penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct and a personal foul after the play that cost 30 yards.

Mundy’s Mill finished the game with 10 penalties for 99 yards, while Gainesville drew eight flags for 95 yards.

Early in the third quarter, Rodney Lackey broke a tackle after a catch at the 10 and scored for Gainesville on a 30-yard touchdown grab from Watson. After a 24-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, Byrd scored for Gainesville on a 10-yard touchdown catch.

Watson’s other touchdown run came late in the first half after he recovered his own fumble at the 1 and ran it in for the score to go up 21-14.

Rodricious Gates completed 12 passes for 170 yards and two touchdown throws for Mundy’s Mill. The Tigers’ leading receiver was Eric Tate with six catches for 118 yards and a 33-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

With the loss, Mundy’s Mill’s season is finished with an 8-5 record.



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