By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Red Elephants rumble to region final, 55-6
Gainesville rushes for 454 yards in rout of Walnut Grove
Placeholder Image

Plans for Fifth Row Center

By: Jeff Gill

To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video

Start with Devon Pierce, add some Markece Robertson, and just for fun, top it off with a little Ray-Ray Thomas. What does that equal? A rushing recipe for success.

The trio of running backs combined for 297 of Gainesville's season-high 454 rushing yards to lead the seventh-ranked Red Elephants to a convincing 55-6 win over Walnut Grove on Friday at City Park.

"They make the plays and I do the dirty work," said Thomas, a freshman who overcame a fumble to rush for 87 yards and two touchdowns.

Thomas' first touchdown was one of several highlights for the Red Elephants (7-1, 4-0 Region 8B-AAA), who secured a berth in the region title game and the state playoffs with the win. The Red Elephants, who will play White County in the title game Nov. 5, hold the tiebreaker over Monroe Area, which is currently in second place in the subregion.

Leading 34-6 in the third quarter, Thomas took a handoff to the left and headed for the end zone. Suddenly he realized he had no place to go, so he took a small step back, wiggled out of a tackle and headed in the opposite direction.

After running the complete width of the field, and following a few big blocks from wide receiver Keyontra Harrison and quarterback Deshaun Watson, Thomas stumbled into the end zone.

"After I fumbled I had to come back with something," Thomas said. "I just kept going."

It was that kind of night for the Red Elephants' rushing attack, which also had 70 yards on four carries from Harrison.

Pierce, a senior, led the team with 113 yards on seven carries and started things off with 98 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Pierce's first touchdown came one play after Walnut Grove (1-7,1-3) was flagged for a personal foul on a punt return. His second came late in the second on a 37-yard run.

"Our offensive line is playing so well and our running backs are doing a great job finding the holes," Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. "We have some depth, and it's fun to see them execute."

Miller was also excited about the way his defense played. The Red Elephants had three sacks, an interception, and held Walnut Grove to just 89 yards of total offense. The interception by Kendrick Millsap was the senior's sixth of the season.

Gainesville nearly matched the Warriors' total yards in one play, a 74-yard touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson to Stephen Mason that gave it a 20-0 lead. Watson, who finished with 148 passing yards, also threw a 25-yard touchdown to Ryan Griffith in the first half.

But Friday was all about the running game, and in the second half that meant a healthy dose of Robertson and Thomas, whose lone mistake resulted in a 37-yard touchdown run by Walnut Grove's Dene Phillips in the third quarter.

Losing the shutout fired up Robertson, who scored on a 20-yard run in the first quarter and ran for 76 yards on four carries during Gainesville's ensuing possession. That drive ended with Thomas' highlight run and put a exclamation point on the playoff-clinching win.

"We want to get back here, but we want to focus on getting better every week," Miller said of qualifying for the postseason. "It's fun to get there, but once you get there you have to take it one game at a time."

After coming so close to winning a state championship last year, Miller and the players entered this season with one thing on their mind: to get back to the playoffs and try again.

They can now cross one of those things off the list.

"This team has a lot of heart," Pierce said. "We want to get back to the Dome; that's our goal."


Friends to Follow social media