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WINDER — The Winder-Barrow Bulldoggs had a monumental task ahead of them in the region 8-AAAAA opener against state-ranked Gainesville on Friday night.
The Red Elephants rolled up a 69-0 victory to improve to 2-1 on the season.
The first quarter proved to be a summary of the entire game. Gainesville junior quarterback Deshaun Watson threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Rodney Lackey just 53 seconds into the game to put the Red Elephants up 7-0. Watson tossed another touchdown pass just three minutes later as Gainesville was up 14-0 in a flash.
The Red Elephants were on the move again after a three-and-out by the Bulldoggs and drove the ball to the 1-yard line. This time, however, sophomore safety Bradyn Randall came up with a fumble in the end zone for a Winder-Barrow touchback. Unfortunately, that would be the lone highlight for the Bulldoggs.
By halftime, the game was more than decided after Watson had thrown seven touchdowns and ran for another to give Gainesville a jaw-dropping 62-0 lead.
Watson was flawless throughout the first half, completing all 16 passes for 331 yards, seven touchdowns, to go along with 41 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Gainesville head coach Bruce Miller was impressed by his starting quarterback, but he also expected Watson to play well.
“He’s played well all year and he played well again tonight,” said Miller. “It was fun to see him have a night like that.”
The most spectacular of Watson’s eight total touchdowns was a pinpoint accurate throw that was caught by senior wideout Tray Harrison. Harrison broke away from a defender and somehow caught the ball over his right shoulder with one hand and then waltzed into the end zone for a 58-yard touchdown.
It is hard to imagine a loss that could be more disappointing than this one for the Bulldoggs. Injury was added to insult when junior lineman Juan Lozano went down with a elbow injury that stopped the game in the first quarter momentarily.
“I don’t want to speculate, but he has a serious elbow injury,” said Bulldoggs coach David Wagner.
The injuries are piling up for Winder-Barrow and fielding a healthy team at full strength is the goal right now. Much of the Bulldoggs starting lineup are junior varsity players that have filled in for injured starters.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to get healthy,” said Wagner. “We’ve got a lot of guys that are out right now. We’ve got a lot of guys that are playing that we didn’t envision getting varsity reps a month ago, so we just got to get healthy.”
Gainesville’s defense was just as impressive as the offense. The Red Elephants caused four turnovers and recorded six sacks in the shutout win.
“You always tell your defense to get a shutout and we got the shutout,” said Miller. “I thought we had a chance to play a lot of kids in a lot of different situations.”
Miller played his second and third teams in the second half with sophomore quarterback Mikey Gonzalez throwing a 24-yard touchdown pass to Chastin Newman. That touchdown would finish off the scoring with Gainesville putting up a season-high 69 points.
Gainesville came into Friday night after notching a big win over Buford last week. This game as a bit of a break in the tough schedule for one of the top-ranked teams in Georgia.
“Next week, we’ve got Apalachee and we’ll just take it one game at a time,” said Miller. “We can’t look to far ahead and we’ll try to put the past behind us and go.”