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Gainesville duo has Red Elephants off and running
Gainesville High running back Devon Pierce carries the ball against White County in the Region 8-AAA championship game on Nov. 5. The Red Elephants won 21-7.

Friday night’s games

Callaway at Buford

Cedar Grove at Gainesville

White County at Grady

Flowery Branch at Kell

All games begin at 7:30 p.m.

In almost every game last year, Gainesville High’s Markece Robertson and Devon Pierce watched from the sidelines as their team made its run to the Class AAA state championship.

Not this year.

The two seniors, who played sparingly last season because Pierce was injured and Robertson couldn’t leap over then-seniors Teryan Rucker and Tyson Smith on the depth chart, are the main cogs in a Gainesville rushing attack that has propelled the team to the second round of the Class AAA state playoffs.

“There was a point where I wanted to be in, but then I have to care about the team and be happy for their success,” Robertson said Monday, five days before the fifth-ranked Red Elephants (10-1) play host to Cedar Grove, the No. 2 seed from Region 5-AAA.

“Junior year was very important to me, but I can’t take anything back,” said Pierce, who shined as a sophomore before injuring his hamstring prior to the start of last year. “I feel like everything happens for a reason. This year’s team is good, and we’ll go as far as they did.”

Pierce and Robertson are two of the main reasons why.

A predominantly pass-oriented team in the past two years, the Red Elephants have adopted more of a run-first mentality, evidenced by their nearly 3-to-1 run-to-pass ratio.

“I feel like we’ve come a long way,” said Pierce, who recalled his freshman year when Gainesville rarely ran the ball. “If you have a running game, you can run all night. You have to have a good running game to keep it going.”

Pierce leads the team with 672 yards rushing on 96 carries (a 7 yard per carry average), while Robertson has 523 yards on 73 carries (a 7.1 yard per carry average). Both have 10 touchdowns on the year, and neither could care less about any of those numbers.

“Our success is together,” said Robertson, who matched Pierce with three touchdowns in Gainesville’s first-round win over Haralson County. “We feel like we’re one back together.”

Their coach feels the same way, calling the duo “the ultimate team players.”

“They do such a great job complementing each other,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. “Coach (Jim) Pavao even told them the other day, saying ‘you two are so much fun to watch because you don’t care who carries the ball.’”

That’s partly because they’re always looking out for each other’s best interest, a trait that dates back to their first meeting in the sixth grade.

“I’ll always remember the first thing he said to me,” Robertson said. “He asked if I had a girlfriend, and I was like, ‘Nah.’ He said, good, because they’re nothing but trouble.”

Since then, the two have been like brothers, and that chemistry off the field has translated to much success on the field.

“I know everything he’s going to do,” Pierce said. “I know if he goes one way, I have to pick this guy off, and I know he always has my back.”

Robertson feels the same way. In fact, the two agree on almost everything from how much their offensive line aids their success — “They make it easy,” Robertson said, — to what it would be like to line up in the backfield together. But one thing they haven’t come to an agreement on is what to call themselves.

“It’s either Boom and Zoom or Smash and Dash,” they said in unison. “We can’t decide.”

With his bruising running style and 5-foot-10, 210-pound frame, Robertson is obviously the “Boom,” yet often times it appears as if the shifty, 5-7, 185-pound Pierce is the hardest guy to bring down.

“It’s my legs,” Pierce said. “My legs are very important to me. I always have the mentality of never going down on the first tackle.”

Robertson doesn’t really have to worry about that because he’s normally the one inflicting pain on would-be tacklers — just like his idol.

“My favorite player is Adrian Peterson,” Robertson said. “Every Thursday I go home and watch YouTube highlights of him and interviews where he talks about why he runs the way he does.”

Their different rushing styles makes Miller’s job easy, and sometimes confusing.

Last week against Haralson County, Miller called a play thinking one was back there, but when he looked up, he saw the other. A brief conversation with running backs coach Michael Perry cleared it all up.

“They switch on their own, and it’s worked for us,” Miller said. “They’re just a good tandem together.

“What I really think is they’re both great kids. They’re not just great football players.”

According to Robertson, that characteristic embodies the whole team, which could make Gainesville more dangerous than it was last year.

“We’re not going to say we’re not that good, or better, but we’re a unit,” he said. “Last year we had stars, this year, we’re one team with one goal.”

And if they reach that goal, Robertson and Pierce will be able to say they had a major part in that achievement.

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