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Game of the Week: Gainesville seeks redemption against Clarke Central
Gainesville's Willie Brooks (8) goes after the ball after forcing a fumble during the Red Elephants' game Friday, August 26, 2016, against Alpharetta High School at City Park. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Week 3 football previews 

It isn’t a question as to how Gainesville will address the weapons on Clarke Central’s offense heading into Friday night’s 7:30 kickoff at City Park Stadium, but how Bruce Miller’s players will respond given the outcome of last week’s storm-ridden loss to Alpharetta.

The Red Elephants (1-1) were able to go toe-to-toe with the Raiders for much of the first half before storms delayed a tied game for over an hour. The visiting Raiders’ offense caught steam by scoring just 14 seconds back from the break to take a 14-7 lead, and once more right before intermission to put the momentum back on their side for the remainder.

The Red Elephants managed just a single first-down with 13 total yards for the second half in the 28-7 loss.

Raiders starting quarterback Matthew Downing completed 23 of 32 attempts to clock out with 278 yards and three touchdowns — two to Maryland commit Carlos Carriere and Nolan Edmonds on back-to-back drives right before the half.

“They came out a different team, and we came out flat,” Miller said of Alpharetta’s breakout surge.

Senior linebacker Willie Brooks attributed last week’s loss to a lack of focus. Brooks had a forced fumble and recovery for the Red Elephants in the first half.

“We needed that honestly, because it humbled a lot of us,” Brooks said. “It made us realize for one, we need to focus. Two, no matter who you are, you can be beaten. So it made us work harder in practice.”

Miller and Brooks indicated there has been a positive response from the challenges presented in practice throughout the week, and a newfound focus for the entire team.

“We’ve got people stepping up, people stepping in,” Brooks added. “Everybody has a newfound focus, everybody’s trying to get this job done. Because we know that if we take Clarke Central lightly, they’re gonna beat us.”

The Red Elephants turn their attention to Clarke Central, a school formally named Athens High. It was once considered an arch rival of Gainesville well before coach Miller’s time. The Red Elephants have won seven of the last 10 meetings against the Gladiators since 1970, but fell in a lopsided affair at Clarke Central last season.

The biggest key, besides keeping those playmakers to include quarterback Jack Mangel in check, will be maintaining composure on the field according to Brooks, something that was the missing piece in the previous meeting. The Red Elephants scored three minutes into the 2015 contest, but turned it over five times and were shutout 44-0 for the remainder. Mangel passed for a career-high 343 yards and four touchdowns on the way to leading the Gladiators to their highest scoring effort of the season.

“If you don’t have much discipline, they will execute. That’s the main thing on Clarke Central,” Brooks added. “We got the physicality, we got the athletes to match up with them. It’s just us being disciplined and focusing.”

After blowing out Winder-Barrow 34-0 in week 1, The Gladiators’ (1-1) offense was held astray in a 34-10 loss to Oconee County last week.

Mangel and tailback Jonathan Sewell (5-foot-11, 182 pounds) are two returning playmakers for the Gladiators. Sewell is currently being scouted by a number of colleges, South Carolina in the mix as per Safety Zay Brown committed to the Gamecocks back in July.

“That (Sewell) can break the game open at any time,” Miller added. “They’ve got a couple of guys on defense that are really good players. And it’s a question of how we are going to respond after getting beat like we did (last Friday). Because really, the second half, it really it wasn’t close any of the second half. You wonder which team will bounce back.”

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