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Gainesville makes a case for the defense in 48-0 win over Apalachee
Red Elephants hold Wildcats to 16 total yards in rout
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Gainesville linebacker Willie Brooks brings down Apalachee quarterback Ricky Wonzon in the backfield Friday night during the first half of the Red Elephants' win at City Park Stadium.

Red Elephants 48, Wildcats 0

Difference maker: Tae Turner was clinical on punt returns in his first game taking them. He totaled 80 return yards off of three punts, not including a 54-yard effort that put him into the end zone. However, the score was negated with a block in the back penalty on Gainesville. His hard work allowed the Red Elephants' offense to work with a short field all game.

Stat that matters: 0 first downs until the fourth quarter. Gainesville didn’t allow Apalachee to make a single first down until midway through the fourth, with the game well in hand. The Red Elephants also registered a sack.

Turning point: Once Chris Byrd found running room on the right side of the field, he took it. He scored a 60-yard rushing touchdown, his first of the year, with four minutes gone in the first quarter to put Gainesville up 7-0.

Next up: Gainesville next travels to Conyers to tackle Heritage (0-4, 0-3 Region 8-AAAAA). Apalachee will travel to Clarke Central (1-3, 1-2 in region).

The objective for Gainesville coach Bruce Miller was clear Friday night: Don’t allow Apalachee a single yard.

His defense did him one better.

The Red Elephants stuffed Apalachee (0-4, 0-3 Region 8-AAAAA) for minus-5 yards in the first half and didn’t allow the Wildcats to make a first down until the fourth quarter en route to a 48-0 win at City Park Stadium.

The Wildcats finished with 16 total yards, all through the air in the second half against Gainesville’s backups. Meanwhile, the Red Elephants’ offense finished with 334 total yards and six touchdowns.

The result was a very satisfied Chris Byrd, who wanted redemption after Gainesville allowed Winder-Barrow running back CeCe Green to run for 330 yards in last week’s 40-26 road win over the Bulldoggs.

“We felt like we had to respond,” said Byrd. “I was only expecting to hold them under 50 (yards), so this is a big deal for us.”

Chris Byrd, Rodarious Timmons and Messiah Dorsey all scored two touchdowns each to pace Gainesville’s offense, which showed versatility and balance when the starters were playing.

The Red Elephants (2-1, 2-0 Region 8-AAAAA) scored on six of their opening eight drives to open up a 38-0 lead. Senior kicker Chandler Staton was able to convert on field goals from 44 and 28 yards to extend the lead.

Lakeview Academy move-in Tae Turner turned heads with his excellent punt return game to help Gainesville work with a short field. He totaled 80 punt return yards on three chances, not including what would have been the game’s first touchdown. He scampered for nearly 60 yards down the sideline on Gainesville’s second drive before his score was called back for a block in the back penalty.

It was Turner’s first shot to return punts in a game for Gainesville, and he intended to take full advantage of the opportunity.

“I always knew that I could do it,” he said. “I just wish I could have gotten it in for a touchdown, but it’s great to do what I can to help out the team in any way I could.”

Byrd (six carries for 71 yards) was Gainesville’s workhorse in the running game. He ran for two touchdowns midway through the first quarter, including a 60-yard score that involved the senior making a twisting, juking run down the right sideline.

“This was big,” he said of the win. “I’ve got to give credit to my (offensive) line, they did a great job. Next week, everything starts over, come Monday, we’ll come together and focus on everything.”

Dorsey (13 of 17 passing, 144 yards, two passing TDs, two rushing TDs) looked much more composed in the pocket as a quarterback, but still was able to make his own runs when he needed to. His first touchdown came with 50 seconds left in the first quarter, when he scrambled into the end zone from 36 yards out after a pass play broke down.

Dorsey hooked up with junior wide receiver Rodarius Timmons for two passing scores in three minutes in the second quarter. The first went for 52 yards, when Dorsey found Timmons on a slant route before Timmons used a few blocks on the left side to break through. The second found Timmons wide open on the same side, pushing Gainesville’s advantage to 38-0.

Backup quarterback Isaac Teasley came into the fold after Dorsey converted his second rushing TD of the game on Gainesville’s first play of the second half.

But the day belonged to the Red Elephants’ defense, which held Apalachee to zero rushing yards in the game. The Wildcats have totaled 12 points in their opening four games.

“The defense was just super, and the punt return group was amazing,” said Miller. “But we’ve got a lot of little things we still want to work on. We’re a long way off from being a good team.”

Notes: Gainesville’s sophomore linebacker Keith Harris was ejected in the fourth quarter following an argument with Apalachee players at midfield. He will be suspended for next week’s road trip to Heritage.

Apalachee’s biggest play of the night was a 16-yard reception by Dalton Bales late in the game from quarterback Ryan Miller.

Red Elephants 48, Wildcats 0

Difference maker: Tae Turner was clinical on punt returns in his first game taking them. He totaled 80 return yards off of three punts, not including a 54-yard effort that put him into the end zone. However, the score was negated with a block in the back penalty on Gainesville. His hard work allowed the Red Elephants' offense to work with a short field all game.

Stat that matters: 0 first downs until the fourth quarter. Gainesville didn’t allow Apalachee to make a single first down until midway through the fourth, with the game well in hand. The Red Elephants also registered a sack.

Turning point: Once Chris Byrd found running room on the right side of the field, he took it. He scored a 60-yard rushing touchdown, his first of the year, with four minutes gone in the first quarter to put Gainesville up 7-0.

Next up: Gainesville next travels to Conyers to tackle Heritage (0-4, 0-3 Region 8-AAAAA). Apalachee will travel to Clarke Central (1-3, 1-2 in region).

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