0830MillerAUDGainesville coach Bruce Miller talks about his team's performance against Chestatee on Friday
0830LuttrellAUDChestatee coach Stan Luttrell talks about what he learned from the loss to Gainesville.
0830SimsAUDGainesville quarterback Blake Sims talks about the team's first win.
What was billed as a season-opening battle between two playoff hopefuls turned into a coming out party for Blake Sims and the vaunted Gainesville offense.
Sims, a junior transfer from Cass High, completed 14 of 16 pass attempts (87.5 percent) for 246 yards and three touchdowns in his first game at Gainesville to lead the Red Elephants to a 35-0 win against Chestatee on Friday at War Eagle Stadium.
"It's been 365 days since we've played them, so we tried to come in and play our best," said Sims, who also rushed for 24 yards and a touchdown. "We tried to come in and put on a good show."
That show started on the first play from scrimmage, as Sims found wide receiver T.J. Jones on a screen pass that resulted in a 41-yard gain. Two plays later, after a critical pass interference call on Chestatee, Sims found Juwon Jefferies for a 7-yard touchdown. The drive lasted a total of 1:49.
"We've been preparing for this game all summer, and all the workouts paid off tonight," said Jones, who finished the game with six receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown in his Gainesville debut.
Not only were the Red Elephants prepared on offense, but they were focused on defense as well, shutting down the run-oriented War Eagles offense.
"Defensively, I'm so proud of them," an emotional Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. "People have doubted us all year and our guys said, ‘Hey, that's enough. We're going to stop it right here.'
"They just stepped in there and fought the whole time."
It was a combined effort for the Gainesville defense, with Phillip Gaines, Shamond Stringer, Xavier Ervin and Tevin Yarbrough leading the way for the Red Elephants.
For the game, the Red Elephants defense held Chestatee to 212 yards of offense, the majority of those yards coming after Gainesville had built a 21-0 lead.
"We shot ourselves in the foot," Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said. "Gainesville is a very good football team just like we knew they were. We have a lot of stuff to work on and I'm thankful that we have a week off next week to get better and get ready for Johnson."
Not all the news was bad for the War Eagles. Running back Ben Southers rushed for 95 yards on 17 carries and linebacker Chase Vasser made critical plays on defense, including chasing down Jones to prevent a touchdown on the game's first play from scrimmage.
But the story of the night was Gainesville and the play of Sims, who not only impressed his coach, but Chestatee's coach as well.
"He's a playmaker that we knew he was," Luttrell said. "He's a very special athlete and he made some great plays."
Added Miller: "Blake played tremendously. He played tough. He got banged up in the first half, but he said, ‘Coach I ain't coming out.' He just hung in there and fought.
"He's a warrior. He's a football player."