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FOOTBALL IN HALL 2019: Gainesville looking to utilize experience for better results after 2-9 mark in 2018
Red Elephants open against powerhouse Mary Persons on Friday at City Park Stadium
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Gainesville's JD Brooks runs through North Hall's line during a scrimmage between Gainesville High School and North Hall at Bobby Gruhn Field on Friday, Aug. 16, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

Gainesville coach Heath Webb’s time with the Red Elephants got off to an inauspicious start last year with a 2-9 finish to the season. That team was young, inexperienced and still adjusting to a brand new system. 

Gainesville does not have the same dynamics this time around. 

With continuity at virtually every position on the field as well as the coaching staff, Webb’s Red Elephants are expected to return to the program’s historic standard of winning. 

“Everybody in the organization understands what we’re doing and is on board with what we’re doing,” Webb said. “So we’re excited to watch that play out.”


5 things to watch

Not satisfied with last season

Gainesville’s two wins last year are the fewest the school has had in a season since 2000. Webb and the rest of the Red Elephants are working to prevent losing seasons from becoming a trend. 

They’re also not shying away from last year, as Webb said he and every member of his team still remembers exactly how disappointing the season was. Preventing those feelings from repeating themselves should serve as motivation for this year’s team.

“We understand that we’re held to a higher standard,” Webb said. “Nobody has to tell us that last year was disappointing, because we lived it. We understand that it’s not who we’re supposed to be. Nobody’s more disappointed than us. The great news is this: We’re past that.”

Strength up front

Every coach wants to build their team from the trenches out, but of late Webb and the Red Elephants have been living it. Offensive and defensive line play should be the team’s biggest strength this season, with Division I talent manning both sides of the line of scrimmage. 

Red Elephant big men Jordan Williams and Makius Scott — committed to play for Georgia Tech and South Carolina, respectively — are among the best linemen the area has to offer, and both will play major roles in any success Gainesville may find this season. 

“I think the strength of our football program is our lines of scrimmage,” Webb said.

Numerous returning starters

This time last year, Gainesville was lacking for veteran talent, with only five players on the roster who had starting experience. It’s a whole new story this time around. 

Webb’s squad graduated very few starters, and most players on both sides of the ball are returning to the team. That returning experience should lead to more organized and disciplined play inside City Park Stadium, translating to more wins.

At the very least, it’s made offseason practices run smoother in Year 2 of Webb’s time at Gainesville.

“Just to have that base knowledge to pull out whenever we need to pull it out, has made things much easier and smoother,” Webb said. “And so we haven’t had to do a whole lot of teaching this summer.”

Solidified at quarterback

Speaking of returning starters, Gionni Williams is back for his second season in Webb’s system, fresh off of starting for the second half of last season and much more prepared for action because of it. 

Williams’ readiness prevents the necessity for a “quarterback battle” this offseason, and one guy taking the majority of reps with the starting unit has done wonders for the team’s offensive cohesion. Unlike last year, Gainesville’s signal caller will not be a week-to-week mystery.

“Last summer was just a quarterback battle amongst three guys,” Webb said. “We were trying to figure out what the pieces looked like. We know the pieces now. We know Gionni Williams is our quarterback.”

Looking for playmakers

Among the Red Elephants’ biggest needs is a game-breaking skill position player — a facet of Gainesville’s offense that was lacking a season ago. The deficit of playmakers led to long periods of offensive stagnation, which doomed the team in several close games. 

Among the possible contenders to be Gainesville’s “big play” guy is last year’s opening day starter at quarterback, Walt Dixon, who will be putting his 6-foot-5 frame to use at wide receiver this season. But whether it’s Dixon or someone else further down the roster, expect Webb to attempt to get several guys in space to pick out a new playmaking threat early on in the year. 

“On the need basis, we need playmakers on offense,” Webb said. “We need guys that can take it 80. It’s something that we didn’t necessarily have last year. We had solid offensive guys, but we need guys that can be game changers.”

Schedule

Friday MARY PERSONS

Aug. 30 at North Forsyth

Sept. 6 at Lambert

Sept. 20 JEFFERSON

Sept. 27 at Flowery Branch

Oct. 4 at Dacula*

Oct. 11 HABERSHAM CENTRAL*

Oct. 25 at Winder-Barrow*

Nov. 1 APALACHEE*

Nov. 8 LANIER*

*region games

Roster

1. Walt Dixon QB/WR Sr.

2. DJ Miller WR/DB So.

3. Keshaun White WR/DB Sr.

5. JD Brooks RB/DB Sr.

6. Demarrie Hayes RB/LB So.

7. Qua Coley RB/LB So.

8. Yusif Ali TE/LB Jr.

9. Gionni Williams QB/DB Jr.

10. JQ Drinkard WR/DB So.

11. Jaylan Rhodes WR/DB Sr.

12. Jeremiah Bennett WR/DB Sr.

13. Ken Hester RB/DB Jr.

14. Demontae Cantrell WR/DB Sr.

15. Quamaine Rucker RB/LB Jr.

16. Cameron Cantrell WR/DB Jr.

17. Clayton Louis RB/LB Jr.

18. Charles Silva WR/DB Sr.

19. Tae Parrish WR/DB Sr.

20. Tristan Lyon QB/P Jr.

21. Jahleel Rivas-Dicks WR/DB Jr.

22. Lenny Chatman WR/DB Jr.

23. Ramsey Waters WR/DB Jr.

24. Deondre Reed WR/DB Sr.

25. Antoine Coleman LB/TE Sr.

26. Dez Brown RB/DB Sr.

27. Sam Perry RB/LB So.

28. Ques Borders TE/LB Sr.

29. Vinson Pierre WR/DB Fr.

30. Xavier Stephens RB/LB Fr.

31. Kahlil Jackson TE/LB Fr.

32. Lemuel Gayle RB/DL Jr.

33. Aveion Young RB/DB Fr.

34. Elias Ballard WR/DB Fr.

35. Zander Lipscomb TE/LB Fr.

36. Jalani Andrews WR/DB Fr.

37. Allan Barajas WR/DB So.

38. Angel Benitez TE/DB Fr.

39. Jeremiah Watts WR/DB Fr.

40. Juan Cavazos WR/DB Sr.

41. Adarian Cheek TE/LB Fr.

42. Mori Young WR/DB Fr.

43. Keyvon Carter WR/DB Jr.

44. Naim Cheeks RB/DB Fr.

45. Deandre Robertson TE/DE Fr.

46. Jerald Bryant RB/DB Fr.

50. Keith Motes OL/LB So.

51. Daniel Flores OL/DL So.

52. Alex Salcido OL/DL Sr.

53. Michael Gosa OL/DL So.

54. Jordan Williams OL/DL Sr.

55. Cedric Nicely OL/DL Jr.

56. Elijah Ruiz OL/DL So.

57. Dorean Whitehead OL/DL Jr.

58. Hari Patel OL/DL Sr.

59. Jean Richmond OL/DL So.

60. Stacy Hopkins OL/DL Fr.

61. TJ Putman OL/DL So.

63. Braylon Randolph OL/DL Fr.

64. Lacorey Hutchinson OL/DL Fr.

65. Jarrious Harris OL/DL Fr.

66. Carrol Brown OL/DL So.

67. Kevin Garcia OL/DL Fr.

69. Ethan McCusker OL/DL Fr.

70. Tayler Phanyoraj OL/DL So.

76. Tanner Valentine OL/DL So.

77. Brandon Watkins OL/DL Jr.

78. Ignacio Olvera OL/DL Jr.

79. Angel Garza OL/DL So.

80. Zarius Burch WR/DB Fr.

81. Zyhir Tanner TE/LB Sr.

82. Deandre Pechanco WR/DB Fr.

83. Samaj Brown WR/DE Fr.

84. Dejon Parrish TE/LB Fr.

85. Jhaischion King K/P Sr.

88. Ethan Reeves TE/DE Jr.

90. Giovanni Martinez K/P So.

91. Ronald Pendo K/P Jr.

95. Jimmy Mai K/P Jr.

98. Khaliq Maddox OL/DL So.

99. Makius Scott TE/DL Sr.


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