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Quick strikes spark Gainesville, 47-0
Watson tosses 5 TD passes in first half lead Red Elephants over Johnson
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Georgia high school scores


Red Elephants 47, Knights 0

Difference maker: Gainesville High quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for 212 yards and five touchdowns, all in the first half.

Stat that matters: All five of the Red Elephants offensive touchdown drives in the first half took less than 1:20. Gainesville scored 34 points in the second quarter.

Turning point: Watson connected with a wide open Stephen Mason for a 44-yard touchdown early in the second quarter to make the score 14-0.

Who’s next: Gainesville plays host to Oconee County at Bobby Gruhn Field; Johnson visits West Hall on Friday at Spartans Stadium.


OAKWOOD — Gainesville High’s offense doesn’t like to waste time when it gets the ball. There’s no reason to leave things to chance considering the number of weapons that Red Elephants sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson has to throw to on the perimeter.

Friday was just the latest example of what the fast-strike Gainesville passing game can do. The Red Elephants scored all five of their offensive touchdowns in the first half in less than 1:20 after taking possession in a 47-0 victory against Johnson (0-5, 0-1 Region 8B-AAA) at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium in Oakwood. 

“Our goal is to execute the plays right,” said Watson, who finished with five touchdown passes for 212 yards, all in the first half. “We can score right off the bat if we do what we’re supposed to.”

The defense also played very well for the Red Elephants (4-1, 1-0), shutting out a talented Johnson running game led by Cedric Harris (109 yards) and A.J. Millwood (59 yards).

Gainesville also scored a pair of touchdowns on defense, including a 30-yard interception return by Joseph Haley in the second quarter and a 60-yard return for a score in the fourth quarter by Michael Pittman. 

“No. 33 (Harris) is an excellent running back,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. “I felt like it was one of those nights for us that we didn’t execute great, but we can live with it.

“A win’s a win.”

The win was especially satisfying for the Red Elephants since this was the South subregion opener, putting them at the top of the pack with four more to play. Wins against North Hall, White County and Franklin County were all in region crossover games. 

“This feels really good to win one on our side,” Watson said. “Now we just have to get back to work next week and get ready for Oconee County.”

Leading 14-0, Gainesville had a long touchdown pass that was made possible by the quick thinking of wide receiver Justin Cantrell (50 yards, two touchdowns). The play started when Watson threw a long pass that was intended for Cantrell along the sideline. However, the pass sailed over his head and was caught instead by his teammate, junior Tray Harrison.

When Cantrell saw the ball was overthrown, he immediately got into position to make a block, took out the only Johnson defender in position to make a tackle and Harrison went 45 yards for the touchdown. Harrison finished the game with three catches for 68 yards.

“Yeah, when I threw that pass to Justin, it kind of floated,” Watson said. “Tray was in the right place at the right time.”

Early in the game, Watson was following Gainesville’s seasonlong trend of getting a handful of receivers in on the action. Red Elephants senior Stephen Mason had a 44-yard touchdown catch early in the second quarter to put them up 14-0. 

In the final 2:50 before halftime, Red Elephants junior Lahius Leverette had a 19-yard touchdown catch. Then 28 seconds later, Cantrell scored on a Watson throw from the 6. Gainesville got the ball back for Cantrell’s touchdown when Johnson fumbled on the kickoff return, one of four turnovers by the Knights.

“We’re all in as a team; that’s our motto,” Pittman said. “We’re trying to bring it home this year and get back to the (Georgia) Dome (site of the state finals).” 

One area for concern for Gainesville entering the game was the running back position. Jay Gaudlock was the No. 1 tailback but sustained a broken leg on Sept. 23 against Franklin County. In his place, Rayshon Thomas (71 yards), Brenquese Dukes, Watson and Quamon Peoples all shared the load.

Next Friday, Gainesville plays host to Oconee County at City Park. Johnson visits West Hall on Friday in the Battle of Oakwood at Spartans Stadium.

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