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Game of the Week: After back-to-back bye weeks, Gainesville clashes with Jefferson
Red Elephants hoping to find rhythm after suffering two straight losses before lengthy break
Gainesville High wide receiver Jarred Rosser (11) jumps for a catch during the game against West Hall High on Friday in Gainesville. - photo by David Barnes

Get prepared for Week 6 of the high school football season with breakdowns of every matchup for area teams.

Finding a way to keep morale high with a 1-2 mark on the eve of a bye can be tough. To compound matters, the Gainesville High football program had to marinate over back-to-back losses with consecutive bye weeks.

However, Red Elephants coach Bruce Miller feels like everything is under control, despite the first 1-2 start for Gainesville since 2000.

“(Practice is) going good,” Miller said. “We’re getting back into the rhythm of things, and I’m anxious to play a game. Seems like forever since we played one.” 

The Red Elephants see their first action tonight against Jefferson since dropping a lopsided road contest to Clarke Central on Sept. 1. 

Miller thinks his team has improved over the break despite seeing one week of preparation cut significantly short due to Tropical Storm Irma. 

“The first week was kind of hard,” Miller added. “Then it was pretty much, ‘OK we gotta get ready for seven-straight games.' And the kids displayed a very good attitude, I thought.”

On top of that, they resurface from back-to-back bye weeks to face Class 4A powerhouse and fifth-ranked Jefferson (3-1) at 7:30 p.m. tonight at City Park Stadium.

The Dragons, now coached by Gene Cathcart, appear to be a confident bunch given their statementg win against much-improved Flowery Branch (3-1) last week. In that game, Dragons senior running back Colby Wood had another big night with 201 total yards and three touchdowns.

Cathcart feels his "battle-tested" squad should be ready for the second rendition of this non-region clash between two programs with storied success. 

“It’s a big game in the area for sure,” Cathcart said. “(The players) know each other real well, parents and fans know each other, the students know each other. ... I consider Bruce and that staff to be friends as well, so we know Friday night will be an exciting game. It’ll be a great atmosphere. It’s always great to play at City Park, and certainly when you play a program the caliber of Gainesville, it should be an awesome night of football and an exciting game.”

Last year’s contest at Memorial Stadium came down to the wire, as Jefferson fended off Gainesville's second-half rally conducted by former Red Elephants quarterback D.J. Irons to win 31-28.

This year presents some new challenges for Jefferson, with the defense keyed on halting the talents of the new man under center for Gainesville, junior Tre’ Luttrell. Luttrell, who played previously at Buford High. He overcame two fumbles to throw for 144 yards on 10 of 19 passing in the opener against West Hall and flaunted his escapability from the pocket to rack up 81 rushing yards on 15 carries.

“He’s a much more athletic young man than he’s given credit for sometimes,” Cathcart said. "One of the things you’ve gotta credit Bruce for over the years is, he’s one of those guys who fits his system to what the skill level or skillset is of his quarterback. A lot of people don’t have the ability to do that.”

As for Gainesville, its objective will be finding a way to minimize the production of Wood, who through four games has rushed for 602 yards and 11 touchdowns, on top of 108 yards receiving and a score. Dragons quarterback Bryce Moore was another name to pop up on Miller’s radar as well.

“I don’t think you’re stopping (Wood); I think you slow him down, hopefully,” Miller said. “You gotta make all his yards hard-earned. Then the kid they got at quarterback who has really improved. ... They kind-of got a two-headed monster.”

Miller also stressed the importance of the team finding its identity on offense for this game and more importantly by the time its enters the critical period of region play. A lack of a running game was one aspect the Gainesville coach saw as a weakness in the 2016 game at Jefferson.

Freshman Montavious Tabor showed flashes of being the Red Elephants’ feature back in Week 1, tallying 75 yards on 16 carries.

“We’ve got to do a better job this time we play,” Miller said. “And we’ve got to really get it going because the region games are only two weeks away. The region is really when you stack up in the state playoffs, and that’s what we’ve got to be ready for.”