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Gainesville rides the lightning, tops Winder-Barrow 46-6
Despite long delay, Red Elephants ride hot senior QB Gonzalez to 1st win
Gainesville High's Chris Byrd, right, leaps and swats away Winder-Barrow quarterback Noah Chapman's pass Friday night duirng the first half of the Red Elephants' home opener at City Park Stadium.

Gainesville’s senior quarterback Mikey Gonzalez was electric all night in Friday’s 46-6 win against Winder-Barrow — before and after a 70-minute weather delay due to lightning around City Park Stadium in Gainesville.

Early in second quarter of the Region 8-AAAAA opener for the Red Elephants in Gainesville, Gonzalez hit wide receiver Chris Williamson perfectly in stride over the middle of the field for a 50-yard touchdown. After a failed extra point to go ahead 13-0, the game immediately went into the lengthy delay that sent both squads to the locker rooms out of precaution, though no rain ever fell.

Gonzalez finished the game completing 21-of-25 throws for 296 yards and four touchdowns, each to a different receiver. Rodney Lackey led Red Elephants (1-1, 1-0 Region 8-AAAAA) receivers with four catches for 95 yards.

“Mikey kept making plays all night, kept making the right decision with the ball,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said.

Winder-Barrow (1-2, 1-1) countered with the strong running of junior CeCe Green, who carried the ball 30 times for 140 yards, including an early fourth-quarter touchdown run. Bulldoggs’ coach Heath Webb said Green’s performance was especially commendable, considering his two primary complementary running mates were both injured in Thursday’s junior varsity game.

“CeCe’s a special player, special running back,” Webb said.

The game swung solidly in Gainesville’s favor early after a tremendous special teams play by junior Toddrick Turner. He blocked a Winder-Barrow field goal attempt, picked up the ball and ran 83 yards untouched for the Red Elephants’ first score with 8:20 remaining in the opening quarter.

“You had two teams that were really battling each other strong there early,” Webb said. “Gainesville makes that play and it totally swings the momentum in its favor.”

After the big special teams play early for the Red Elephants, the defense started to do a better job slowing the Bulldoggs’ offense. Also in the first half, Chris Byrd broke up a pair of pass attempts on third down. Kash Jones and Nick Singleton also produced big sacks for the Red Elephants’ defense in the first half on third-down plays.

Once Gainesville’s offense found some rhythm — and shook off the long delay — Gonzalez showed what he was able to do with his playmakers in space. Leading 13-0 in the second period, Gonzalez dumped off a pass to Byrd in the backfield, and the shifty back eluded defenders and went 32 yards for the score.

The second quarter took close to two hours after the weather delay.

After his touchdown catch and run, Byrd (143 yards of offense) scored on the next series late in the second quarter with a 74-yard run, making multiple defenders miss with his quick footwork.

Then in the third quarter, Gonzalez hit Rodney Lackey on a 6-yard touchdown throw, and Messiah Dorsey on a 12-yard strike into the end zone.

“It felt good for us to have a game like we did (Friday), after not playing well against Grayson,” said Gonzalez, who is filling the shoes admirably this season after the state’s all-time leading passer, Deshaun Watson, graduated. “I put the ball there for the guys and they were making great plays with the ball.”

Webb said he didn’t think Gainesville would miss a beat, though Watson is now playing as a freshman for Clemson. Watson was on the Gainesville sideline for the game, as the Tigers have a bye week before facing Florida State on Sept. 20.

“You take Deshaun Watson out, Gainesville still has playmakers all over the field,” Webb said. “You get the ball to their athletes in space, they’re tough to tackle.”

Dorsey also got in on the passing game in the third quarter. After taking a handoff from Gonzalez and cutting to his left in the backfield, he stepped back and connected with Lackey on a pass that resulted in a 62-yard touchdown.

The Red Elephants finished the game 347 passing yards, while holding the Bulldoggs to 115 through the air.

On Friday, Gainesville visits Apalachee in Winder; Winder-Barrow hosts Loganville at W. Clair Harris Stadium.

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