DJ Irons is tough as nails.
Gainesville High’s junior quarterback was eluding defenders in the backfield and scrambling for positive yardage, and kept the chains moving with his even dissemination of the ball with throws to his receivers — all while battling discomfort from a hit from a Habersham Central defender to his right tricep during Friday’s 24-7 Red Elephants victory in Mount Airy.
The pain from the hit during the second drive for Gainesville’s offense might have made it hard to get a lot of zip on the ball, according to Irons, but it didn’t have a negative impact on his statistics.
Gainesville’s first-year starting quarterback completed 60 percent of his throws for 285 yards and three touchdowns.
His performance was key for Gainesville (3-3, 1-0 Region 8-AAAAAA) as it halted a two-game losing streak.
For his effort, Irons is The Times’ Football Player of the Week.
“DJ had an excellent game,” said Red Elephants coach Bruce Miller. “He continues to show great composure and leadership.”
Irons was able to remedy the pain with some over-the-counter pain medicine at halftime. Gainesville’s quarterback hit Jim Barnett for an 84-yard scoring play early in the second half, making its lead 17-7. Sticking with his gameplan, Irons continues to get a handful of receivers in on the catches.
Senior Andy Hayes had almost 100 receiving yards, and Kadarius Smith (TD reception) also factored into the Red Elephants’ passing game.
When Irons found himself under duress in the backfield, it was Smith who helped him move the chains. On one instance, Irons was able to bounce around Raiders defenders, then found Smith for a 20-yard scoring throw. On another play, he threw it to Smith on third down for enough yardage to move the chains.
Miller said Irons has continued to evolve in Gainesville’s ‘quarterback-driven offense’ which flourishes when the signal caller is making good decisions with the ball.
“We’re harder to stop on offense when the quarterback is playing well,” Miller said.
Irons considers it just holding up their end of the bargain.
“Our defense is going to make stops,” said Irons.
Gainesville’s win against Habersham Central was about as big as any regular season win can get. It came a week after the Red Elephants lost to Marist. Gainesville now stands at 1-0 in region play and controls its own destiny with four more region games left on the schedule.
On Friday, Gainesville hosts Dacula (2-4, 1-0) at City Park Stadium.