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Red Elephants ride turnovers to 62-20 rout
Early mistakes doom Johnson 62-20 Gainesville victory
Gainesville's Ray-Ray Thomas carries the ball for a 70-yard touchdown during Friday's game against Johnson at City Park Stadium. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Bruce Miller wasn't standing on the sidelines, but he's sure going to enjoy watching the film from Gainesville's game against Johnson.

And when he's done watching, he's going to have to tip his cap to his fill-in head coach and defensive coordinator Jim Pavao and his defense for a job well done.

The Red Elephants recorded four interceptions — three by sophomore Fred Payne — and recovered a fumble all in the first half as Gainesville cruised to a 62-20 win over the Knights on Friday at City Park.

"The defense played well, the offense played well; it was a total team effort," said Pavao, who was filling in for Miller, who was serving a one-game suspension resulting from last week's ejection. "It was one of those games where we forced things defensively and the offense capitalized."

And it didn't take long.

After Kendrick Millsap picked off the first pass of the game, Gainesville's offense needed just four plays for Deshaun Watson to find Lahius Leverette for a 7-yard touchdown that gave the Red Elephants a 7-0 lead.
The Red Elephants (4-1, 1-0 Region 8B-AAA) jumped out to a 14-0 lead on its next possession when Watson capped a seven-play drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Mason.

From then on, when the Red Elephants struck, they struck quickly.

Less than a minute after the Mason touchdown, and after Payne's first interception of the half, Markece Robertson rumbled in for a 21-yard touchdown on Gainesville's second play from scrimmage.

Robertson scored on a 15-yard run 30 seconds later after Toddrick Stringer recovered a Johnson (0-5, 0-1) fumble, and again with 2:20 left to play in the first quarter after Payne's second pick. Robertson, who finished with 41 yards rushing, scored his final two touchdowns on the first play from scrimmage.

"Coach Miller always tells us not to take a team lightly," Payne said. "We knew we had to come out ready to play."

From there, Robertson turned things over to freshman Ray-Ray Thomas, who took his first handoff 70 yards for a touchdown. Thomas, who finished with 92 yards on seven carries, caught a screen pass from Stephen Mason and took it 46 yards for a touchdown with 1:38 left in the second quarter.

"It's one of those games where we knew it was a long shot, but we were going in trying to win," Johnson coach Paul Friel said. "We knew we had to play mistake-free football and that didn't happen."

Gainesville's big plays continued in the third quarter when Devon Pierce scored a 53-yard run on the Red Elephants' third play of the half.

"We're getting our momentum back," said Pierce, who finished with 73 yards rushing. "I still don't think we've peaked yet."

Johnson's first touchdown came at the end of the third quarter when quarterback Luke Gilleland scored on a 1-yard run. Gilleland, who finished with 76 yards passing, scored another 1-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter that answered a touchdown from Gainesville's Justin Cantrell.

Cedric Harris, who rushed for 109 yards, scored the Knights' final touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

"I'm happy the kids kept fighting," Friel said. "We were outmatched, but they didn't quit, they didn't give up."


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