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Gainesville kicks its way past Monroe-Albany, 16-13
Fred Payne of Gainesville stops Brandon Gordon of Monroe-Albany during Friday's Class AAA second-round state playoff game at City Park Stadium. - photo by Tom Reed

Gainesville senior place kicker Aiden Reising isn't used to being called on in big situations, not on a team that averaged 45 points during the first 11 games of the season.

But when the Red Elephants needed their kicker the most, he came through on a huge stage in Friday's second-round playoff game against Monroe-Albany.

Tied at 13-13 with 4:03 left in the fourth quarter, Reising drilled an 18-yard field goal, about the length of an extra point, and Gainesville's defense made a stand on the Tornadoes' ensuing drive to secure a 16-13 victory at City Park Stadium in Gainesville.

"I just stayed calm and knew I had to put it through," said Reising, who missed an extra point in the first quarter. "After I missed the extra point, I knew there would be a next one."

He was certainly right.

With the win, the Red Elephants (11-1) host Class AAA's top-ranked Sandy Creek (12-0) Friday in the state quarterfinals after winning a coin flip Saturday morning.

Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said it was a no-brainer to bring out his kicker with the game tied. The Red Elephants opted to pass on second and third down, but both went incomplete.

"We had three downs and weren't able to get it in," Miller said. "At that point, we knew it was nothing more than an extra point."

After Gainesville struggled moving the ball all night, the Red Elephants moved the ball down field on a 16-play drive that started at their own 14 with 9:39 left to play.

Even though Gainesville only was able to gain 313 yards (157 passing and 156 rushing) on the night, it moved the chains when it mattered most.

On third and 10 early in the drive, Gainesville quarterback Deshaun Watson ran for 21 yards to keep the drive alive.
Then he fired a 9-yard completion to Justin Cantrell (five catches, 65 yards), followed by a 10-yard pass to Tray Harrison. Four plays later, Watson picked up 4 yards on a crucial fourth and 3.

After three more pass completions by Watson, who led the team with 83 rushing yards, he got the ball down to the 2 when Monroe was flagged for a face mask penalty.

And four plays later, Reising made the kick, his only field goal to this point in the season.

Watson was especially excited with the win after falling in the second round of the playoffs last season to Cedar Grove in Gainesville.

"It feels great to be able to win a close game like this," Watson said. "They aren't all going to be blowouts."

Monroe, which had 320 yards of offense, still was able to move the ball as the clock started to wind down. The Tornadoes (6-6) got past midfield with a 23-yard catch by Xavier Street with 1:20 left to play.

However, Gainesville forced Monroe into two short pass completions and safety Fred Payne defended a pass to the end zone on the final play of the game to secure the win.

Also, early in the fourth quarter Gainesville kept Monroe out of the end zone after it drove down to the 20.

"Our defense just bowed up tonight and got it done," said Payne. "We had a great series before we took the lead and we just showed our composure out there.

"We knew this was going to be a tough game, but we got it done."

Just like in the fourth quarter, the game's early stages were also a back-and-forth affair.

Gainesville scored first with a 43-yard run by Harrison in the first quarter. The touchdown came three plays after a 50-yard run by Watson from the Monroe goal line.

However, the Tornadoes battled right back and scored on a 14-yard touchdown catch by running back Devine Noel on a fourth-and-7 midway through the second quarter that tied the score at 6-6.

Even though Gainesville struggled passing the ball all night, largely due to great pressure from the Monroe defensive line, Watson completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Mason with 5:01 remaining in the first half.

Watson finished the game 15 of 33 passing for 157 yards.

Noel had both touchdowns for the Tornadoes, including a 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He finished as the game's leading rusher with 24 carries for 96 yards.

With the loss, Monroe's season is finished.


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