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CONYERS — The Gainesville Red Elephants looked every bit as good Friday night as their 2012 state title squad, stomping Heritage 48-7 at Evans Memorial Stadium for control of the top spot in Region 8-AAAAA.
Gainesville (4-1, 3-0) quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for 257 yards and five touchdowns in the first half, while the Red Elephants’ defense limited the Patriots (3-2, 2-1) to just three first downs in the first 24 minutes of play.
Heritage did not reach Gainesville territory until late in the third quarter, mustering just 136 yards on the ground.
“That is probably the best offensive football team I’ve seen in 20 years,” Heritage coach Mike Parris said. “We’re not to their level right now and it showed. They are a better football team than we are. They’re something pretty special.”
The Red Elephant defense held Heritage to just nine yards through the air, while picking off a pass from quarterback Anthony Stanley in the second quarter.
Watson found the end zone twice in the first quarter on a pair of pass, hitting wideout Jay Gaudlock for a 12-yard score over the middle of the field for the game’s first touchdown. A successful extra-point from Gage Turner gave the Red Elephants a 7-0 lead with 6:37 to go in the first quarter.
Watson found Rodney Lackey for his second score through the air in the first period, scoring just three minutes later on a 30-yard touchdown pass, extending Gainesville’s advantage to 14-0.
The Red Elephants’ quarterback used his arm to find the end zone three more times in the second quarter, hitting receivers Chris Williamson, Orrin Ragland and Lackey for touchdowns. Watson connected with Lackey for the combo’s second touchdown of the game with 1:42 left in the first half, scoring on a 29-yard touchdown before heading into the break.
Watson played just one series in the second half but made it count, the senior scoring his sixth and final touchdown of the contest just over a minute into the third quarter. Watson used a 32-yard touchdown pass to Williamson to extend Gainesville’s lead to 41-0 with 10:57 left in the third quarter.
Watson finished the game 27-of-31 passing for 314 yards and six touchdowns.
Gainesville backup quarterback Mikey Gonzalez found Chastin Newman for a 13-yard touchdown score with 6:20 to go in the third quarter for the Red Elephants’ final trip to the end zone, handing Gainesville a commanding 48-0 lead.
The Patriots scored their lone touchdown with three minutes to go in the game, cutting the Red Elephants’ advantage to 48-7 on an 11-yard Kenon Johnson touchdown run. Johnson’s score came off Gainesville’s only turnover of the contest after Gonazlez was picked off by the Patriots’ Quentin Dixon.
C.J. Stone and Christian Reid finished with 56 yards apiece on the ground for Heritage, while starting quarterback Anthony Stanley finished 2-for-4 passing for nine yards with 13 yards rushing.
“The biggest thing is that we have guys hurt, we have guys suspended and we have guys not doing what they are supposed to do,” Parris said. “We’re a running team right now because we can’t pass the ball. It hurts us ... it’s not good right now, but we’re going to get better.”
Gainesville returns to action next week at home against Cedar Shoals, while Heritage hosts Winder-Barrow at home.