The Blitz, complete high school coverage
Through two games of region play, Gainesville junior quarterback Deshaun Watson has proved nearly flawless in the first half of big blowouts. And the Red Elephants’ defense has been a stalwart for all four quarters.
On Friday, Watson was the catalyst behind touchdowns for Gainesville (3-1, 2-0 Region 8-AAAAA) on each of its first six offensive possessions and a 62-20 win against Apalachee at City Park Stadium.
The Red Elephants were just as impressive on the defensive side, holding the Wildcats to just 29 rushing yards and 148 yards of total offense for the night.
“These first couple of region games have given us a lot of confidence,” said Gainesville senior defensive back Fred Payne, who also scored on a 90-yard kick return in the second half. “We just can’t let ourselves get a big head because of it.”
So far in region play, Gainesville has outscored the opposition 131-20 in two outings.
“The entire team played really hard tonight,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. “We hope to be able to build off of it with a big one next week against Heritage.”
Meanwhile, Apalachee (1-2, 0-1) coach Shane Davis was disappointed with his team falling behind 28-0 through just one quarter, and going into halftime down 49-0. The Wildcats got on the scoreboard with a 98-yard kick off return by Jody Mathis to open the third quarter. Kyle Jackson and Jermaine Smith each had touchdown catches for Apalachee in the fourth quarter.
Davis has no doubts that his team will continue to fight through the rest of the region schedule.
“We clearly want to get better from this,” Davis said. “Hopefully, the kids on our team will use this game as a life lesson.”
However, trying to stop Watson and the Red Elephants was too tall of a task on this night.
One week after Watson completed all 18 of his pass attempts for 350 in two quarters of play against Winder-Barrow, it took the Red Elephants’ signal caller just one half to put Apalachee away. On Friday, Watson completed 17 of 20 throws to six different receivers for 294 yards and one touchdown pass in the first half, before going to a running clock in the final half due to the mercy rule.
“Deshaun’s doing an excellent job,” said sophomore wide receiver Rodney Lackey, who finished with a game-high 115 receiving yards. “He’s putting the ball right on the money.”
Gainesville scored four touchdowns in the first quarter and had the only passing touchdown of the night going to Lackey from the 14 with 3:03 remaining in the opening period. Watson (nine carries, 75 yards) and Jay Gaudlock each scored on rushing plays in the opening quarter for Gainesville.
In the final minute of the opening quarter, Justin Cantrell blocked an Apalachee kick at the goal line and Maurice Tanner recovered the ball in the end zone for the Gainesville score.
The Red Elephants’ pace on offense was clearly a factor. Running out of the no huddle, Gainesville needed just 17 snaps in the first quarter to put the ball in the end zone three times.
“Gainesville runs a high-powered, fast offense and try to get as many plays as they can,” Davis added. “We know the way they work, Gainesville can average about 80 plays a night.”
With the way Gainesville moved the ball in big chunks behind Watson’s precision, it didn’t require many snaps to reach the end zone. On the Red Elephants’ first touchdown drive, Lahius Leverette had a 44-yard grab, followed immediately by a 19-yard pass to Tray Harrison down to the 5.
On Gainesville’s third drive, Lackey came through with his longest catch of the night of 43 yards, setting up Gainesville’s only passing score of the night. Harrison, Jay Gaudlock and Michael Byrd also had rushing touchdowns for the Red Elephants.
Meanwhile, the Red Elephants defense had Apalachee’s number. The Wildcats averaged only 1 yard per rush attempt.
In the second half, Payne had a 90-yard kick return for a touchdown. Harrison returned a kick 95 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
On Friday, Gainesville plays host to Heritage at City Park Stadium.