Hall, Gainesville schools closed Tuesday due to weather
The following are closings and delayed openings due to the winter storm:
Full Story
By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Football Player of the Week: Gainesville's Deshaun Watson
Red Elephants quarterback beat Cedar Shoals defense with arm and legs
1005SPORTS Gainesville3 JP
Gainesville senior quarterback Deshaun Watson runs down the field against Cedar Shoals on Friday at City Park Stadium. - photo by Jared Putnam

Honor Roll

Devin Watson, East Hall: Passed for 331 yards and a touchdown, ran for 39 yards and two touchdowns against North Hall.

Milton Whelchel, East Hall: Caught eight passes for 66 yards and a touchdown, scored on an 89-yard kickoff return against North Hall.

Andrew Smith, North Hall: Rushed for 226 yards and two touchdowns, passed for one touchdown against East Hall.

Zac Little, North Hall: Rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns against East Hall.

Michael Byrd, Gainesville: Rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns against Cedar Shoals.

Jacob Lewis, Jackson County: Passed for 156 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns against Franklin County.

Layson Giles, Jackson County: Caught five passes for 126 yards and a touchdown against Franklin County.

Malik Tuck, Jackson County: Rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns against Franklin County.

Jackson McDonald, Flowery Branch: Passed for 124 yards and three touchdowns against Apalachee.

Cameron Davis, Flowery Branch: Caught a touchdown pass and ran for a rushing touchdown against Apalachee.

Zac Cheshire, Chestatee: Rushed for 89 yards and two touchdowns against Johnson.

Joshua Thomas, Buford: Caught an 84-yard touchdown pass and rushed for a touchdown against West Hall.

Taylor Mitchell, Buford: Passed for 128 yards and two touchdowns against West Hall.

Chance McClure, Commerce: Scored a rushing touchdown in overtime and the ensuing game-winning two-point conversion against Athens Christian.

Deshaun Watson has captivated the Georgia high school football community through incredible performances that have made him the state’s all-time passing leader.

The Gainesville quarterback boosted his career total above 11,000 passing yards Friday night, just three weeks after he became the first player in the history of the state to reach the 10,000-yard mark.

What’s often overlooked is the senior’s running ability, but he made sure at least Cedar Shoals was reminded of what he can do with his feet.

Midway through the first quarter of the Red Elephants’ 51-6 win over the Jaguars on Friday, Watson burst out of the pocket and danced around defenders, broke five tackles and sped his way across the width of the field before outrunning his final opponent and diving into the corner of the end zone for a dazzling 63-yard touchdown run.

Watson’s 23-of-28 passing performance for 289 yards and four touchdowns was a relatively typical night through the air by his standards, but the highlight-reel run perfectly demonstrated his incredible mobility outside the pocket. For his efforts, he is The Times Football Player of the Week.

“At the beginning of the play we were trying to set up a fast screen and spread the defense out, so we had man (coverage) all cross the board,” Watson said. “When I see that and I see the box off, I call a draw play for me.

“I just happened to break loose and make a play, and my teammates helped me out downfield with blocking, and I ended up getting into the end zone.”

With his team up by three scores after the play, Watson returned to the sideline short of breath after the incredible haul.

Gainesville coach Bruce Miller was just as captivated by the play from the sideline.

“He came to sideline breathing really hard, and I said, ‘we need to get you in shape if you’re going to be making runs like this very often,”’ Miller said. “But you just kind of come to expect those kind of things from him.

“When he does them, they’re pretty incredible.”

Especially since the Red Elephants (5-1, 4-0 Region 8-AAAAA) have put a damper on Watson’s running plays this season to keep him from getting hurt. He has 286 yards on 38 carries through six games.

The Clemson commit and nationally-recognized quarterback rushed for 1,441 yards and scored 24 times to go along with his 4,024 passing yards last season, so his running ability is hardly a secret.

But that doesn’t make him any easier to stop.

“We haven’t run him that much this year, but pretty soon here but we’re going to have to take wraps off of him and let him run,” Miller said. “We’ve tried to protect him, but there’s only so much you can do, and with him running it makes our offense doubly hard to stop.”

After four years of troubling defenses with both his arm and his legs, Watson is free to run Gainesville’s offense how he pleases.

With Peyton Manning-like authority on the field, Watson often calls his own plays. Hours upon hours of film study has given him the ability to change the offense around him if he doesn’t like what the defense gives him.

“I have the freedom to put us in position to have the best play or the possibility to score on that drive,” Watson said. “They gave me the keys, and I can basically do whatever I want with it, but I also listen to the coaches and whatever they want to run. I stick with it.”

The touchdown run was in fact called for Watson, rather than a decision made by the quarterback himself. Not that it mattered once he was in the end zone.

Should he continue to burst for big scoring runs such as Friday’s — he has four rushing touchdowns this season — Miller may consider removing all restraints from his quarterback, and let Watson use his athleticism as much as warranted.

“He’s special,” Miller said. “I’m glad he’s on our own team, for sure. I’d hate to have to stop him.”

This time next year, it could be ACC defenses trying to slow him down.

All but a lock to be on the Clemson roster in 2014, Watson is already being touted as the successor to current Tigers starter Tajh Boyd, who is expected to be a first-round draft pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

That means that his first-ever start as college quarterback could be in the raucous confines of Sanford Stadium, when Clemson opens next season at Georgia.

“Those are things I’ve dreamed for since I was a little kid — playing in a stadium like that,” Watson said. “I have an opportunity to start for a big-time program in Clemson against Georgia, another big-time program from my home state. It’ll be nerve-racking throughout the week, but I think I can handle it.”

It’s a giant jump from his comfortable environment at City Park Stadium, but Miller says the 6-foot-3, 200-pound standout is more than ready.

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him starting between the hedges next year for the Clemson-Georgia game,” Miller said. “With his frame, there’s so much he can do with it. It’ll be fun to watch when they govern what he eats and when he sleeps.

“He is one of these that he understands that has to be done. All you have to do is talk to Deshaun and it’s done.”

That includes telling Watson to make plays when the situation calls for it, such as he did last Friday.

It’s an ability that could take his football career far, and his team as well. With a four-game winning streak at hand and a perfect region record, Gainesville is counting on him to keep defenders stumped on how to stop the Red Elephants’ high-powered offense.

“I feel comfortable about our team. We’re getting better every week, but we have a lot of stuff we have to improve on,” Watson said. “We’re getting better every week, and we just have to get to the point that we’re consistent on every drive on both sides of the ball.”