Red Elephants 42, Lions 13
Difference maker: Gainesville quarterback Deshaun Watson passed for 326 yards and four touchdowns.
Stat that matters: Gainesville had three drives lasting less than a minute.
Turning point: Watson scored on a run from the 2 late in the third quarter to make it a 28-13 lead.
Who's next: Gainesville visits Johnson on Friday at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium in Oakwood.
CARNESVILLE — Nothing about Gainesville’s quick-strike offense has changed.
A week after Red Elephants quarterback Deshaun Watson’s eight-touchdown effort, he had four touchdown passes in a 42-13 win Friday against Franklin County in Carnesville.
Though the Lions (1-3) had some success moving the ball running in their triple-option-style offense, the Red Elephants took all the momentum away with some big plays from Watson’s arm.
“We just want to play fast, score fast and keep improving every week,” Watson said.
He finished with 326 passing yards and completed passes to six different receivers.
Now, Gainesville (3-1) has three games under its belt against crossover opponents in Region 8-AAA, all decisive wins for the Red Elephants.
Gainesville coach Bruce Miller feels his program is headed in the right direction with the biggest games still ahead.
“We just got to remember to keep fighting every week,” Miller said. “Tonight, Franklin County did an excellent job.”
And Miller was more than pleased with Watson’s effort.
“Deshaun’s Deshaun,” Miller said. “He did an excellent job of executing, the receivers were executing, running backs were playing well and the line was blocking.”
Gainesville’s subregion schedule begins Friday at Johnson with the rest of the season determining positioning for the Region play-in game the final week of the regular season. The Red Elephants are looking to claim their fourth consecutive region title this year.
“We just have to play fast every week and not doubt anyone,” Watson said.
Tied 7-7 late in the first quarter, Watson had the biggest play of the night when he hit Gainesville wide receiver Justin Cantrell for a 55-yard touchdown.
Big plays were even more impressive on a slippery field at Ed Bryant Stadium after approximately 4 inches of rain fell in Carnesville on Thursday. A number of times, ballcarriers slipped untouched in the open field.
However, Gainesville had the answer with its no-huddle, spread attack.
Also in the first quarter, Watson connected with Stephen Mason on a pass on a post pattern that went for a 32-yard score.
Gainesville also moved the ball on the ground. Leading 14-7 in the second quarter, Jay Gaudlock (nine carries, 75 yards) capped a five-play drive with a 17-yard score. Cantrell set up the score with a catch of 19 yards on a pass by Watson that he floated over the defender’s head. Cantrell led all Gainesville receivers with three catches for 108 yards.
“Our offense is all about speed,” said Gainesville receiver Tray Harrison, who had two touchdown catches in the fourth quarter.
Even when Franklin County drew within a score with an eight-minute drive early in the third quarter, Gainesville came right back with a fast score. Lahius Leverette set up the score with a 20-yard catch on third-and-8. Then Watson scored three plays later on a run from the 2.
The Lions had good success moving the ball on the ground, especially in the first half behind savvy senior quarterback Kevin Harris. However, Franklin County put too many long drives together without scoring. Andrew Heaton scored twice for the Lions and finished the game with 107 rushing yards.
Franklin County carried the ball 56 times for 330 yards. Those long sustained drives worked in Gainesville’s favor as Watson was able to work out soreness in his throwing arm by tossing on the sideline.
Early in the second quarter, a 10-play drive ended with a fumble on the pitch and turnover on downs. Then later in the second, Franklin County marched the ball down field with 17 plays, all on the ground but failed to score.
Franklin County kept the drive alive twice on offside penalties against Gainesville, the first on a fourth-and-2 when the nose tackle jumped across the line. Later, Franklin County picked up a first down on another offside call against the Red Elephants.