Red Elephants 51, Jaguars 6
Difference maker: Deshaun Watson. Gainesville’s senior quarterback pushed his career passing yards past 11,000 with 289 yards on a 23-for-28 night that included four passing touchdowns and a 63-yard rushing score.
Stat that matters: One minute, 57 seconds. Total time of possession needed for Gainesville to score three times in the first quarter.
Turning point: When Watson broke loose and weaved his way to a sensational 63-yard scoring run that put the Red Elephants up 21-0 in the first quarter, the outcome was already apparent.
Who’s next: Gainesville hosts Salem next week; Cedar Shoals travels to Apalachee on Oct. 18.
It took Gainesville one snap to assert its dominance in Friday night’s 51-6 win over Cedar Shoals.
Red Elephant sophomore Toddrick Turner picked off a Cedar Shoals pass on the game’s opening drive, and from there a businesslike dismantling commenced.
It began with a 36-yard touchdown strike from Deshaun Watson to Rodney Lackey on Gainesville’s first play from scrimmage, and ended with Michael Byrd’s second touchdown run of the night late in the third quarter.
In between, the Red Elephants (5-1, 4-0 Region 8-AAAAA) rolled up the better part of their 522 total yards on the night — led by Watson’s 289 through the air — and were scarcely threatened.
“Our kids are working in practicing every day,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. “They’re getting better and better, we’ve just got to keep working at it.”
Gainesville stretched its lead to 14-0 midway through the opening quarter with a 76-yard, six-play drive that included a 10-yard setback for holding and culminated in a 32-yard scoring toss from Watson to Jay Gaudlock. The touchdown pushed Watson, the state’s all-time leader in passing yardage, to more than 11,000 yards in his career.
The senior completed his first nine passes and his final seven, finishing the night 23 of 28 with four scores through the air. But it was his lone score on the ground that was the highlight of the night.
On the first play of Gainesville’s third possession, Watson sprinted to the right, then ran over, around and through the Jaguar defense — and then back again — picking up a convoy of blockers along the way on his route to the end zone.
The backbreaking run covered 63 yards and left the score 21-0 less than seven minutes into the game.
“We played really good in the first quarter,” Miller said. “Offensively, we had a couple of lulls in the second quarter, but defensively we played great the whole game. Our defense had a shut out until right there at the end.”
Cedar Shoals (0-6, 0-4) found some success on the ground in bursts, but the Gainesville defense was able to buckle down and keep the Jaguars off the scoreboard until Adrian Washington fought his way in from 1 yard out midway through the fourth quarter.
Washington was Jaguars’ workhorse, carrying 28 times for 141 yards, including a 53-yard run in the first quarter. Cedar Shoals quarterback Greg Smith added 47 yards on 15 carries and was 5 of 12 through the air for 29 yards.
Meanwhile, Gainesville again showcased its plethora of dangerous receivers, with seven Red Elephants recording catches, led by Gaudlock’s six receptions for 84 yards. Lackey added five catches for 73 yards, and Chastin Newman had four for 80 yards and a score. Orrin Ragland also pulled in two catches for 21 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown on a fade route in the third quarter.
Byrd led the Gainesville ground game with 103 yards on 15 carries and also registered five catches for 25 yards.
Even in the blowout win, Miller found room for improvement, starting with the Red Elephants’ nine penalties for 75 yards.
“We’re playing well enough to win, doing the little things; we’ve just got to be consistent,” Miller said. “We can’t have lulls like we had in the second quarter. We’ll talk to them about that, because when that happens, it’s just a loss of concentration on their part. We’ve just got to keep working on ourselves.”
Gainesville is home next week against Salem, while Cedar Shoals is off Friday before traveling to Apalachee on Oct. 18.