0927MILLERAUDListen to Gainesville coach Bruce Miller talk about the win and the team's success this year.
0927SimsAUDListen to Blake Sims talk about the win, and the future of the Red Elephants this season.
Last week Bruce Miller wondered how good his Gainesville team would be if the offense started clicking. He now knows the answer.
The Red Elephants (5-0, 1-0 Region 7B-AAA) racked up 376 yards of offense, including 159 passing yards from junior Blake Sims, en route to a 43-0 win over West Hall (3-2, 0-1) on Friday at Bobby Gruhn Field.
"This offense is hard to stop," Miller said. "If we're passing the ball, running the ball, and clicking on all cylinders, we're going to be tough to stop."
Thus was the case in the first half when Sims led Gainesville to five scoring drives, running in two touchdowns and passing for another two.
"We could have scored more times, but I started slow," said Sims who eclipsed the 1,000-yard passing mark for the season in the first half. "But as soon as I got my rhythm down, good things started happening."
Especially in the second quarter, when Gainesville exploded for four touchdowns, including scoring passes from Sims to D.J. Allen and Juwon Jeffries and rushing touchdowns by Sims and sophomore Devon Pierce, who led the Red Elephants' ground attack with 96 yards on 16 carries.
Normally lost in a pass-first offense, Pierce, who said he was disappointed he didn't get to a 100 yards on the ground, knew he'd be in for a long night running the ball.
"Coach just told me to get ready to run," he said. "We looked at some film and saw that we could run on them."
Sandwiched in between all the touchdowns was a safety recorded by Austin Calvert, who blocked a punt on special teams and recovered the ball in the end zone but slid out of bounds for the safety.
That safety was a stamp on yet another strong performance by the Red Elephants' defense and special teams.
The defense held West Hall quarterback Shunquez Stephens to 176 yards passing (completing 15-of-40 attempts), and intercepted two of his passes. Gainesville's T.J. Jones, who was filling in for the injured Robert Humphries, was on the receiving end of both interceptions.
"T.J.'s just a good player," Miller said. "You can put him anywhere on the field and he'll make plays."
With Jones patrolling the secondary and limiting West Hall's success in the passing game, Gainesville's linebackers and defensive linemen were shutting down the run and harassing Stephens all night. Led by Brock Boleman's two sacks, the Red Elephants dropped Stephens a total of four times behind the line of scrimmage, and at one point forced the sophomore quarterback into six consecutive incompletions.
"Right now it's going well," said Miller, who's defense recorded its second consecutive shutout, and have allowed only 14 points during the first five games of the season, an average of 2.8 points allowed per game. "You go back to practice each week and you sharpen the things that you didn't do right. You sharpen, and you sharpen, and you hope you get it all worked out."
The win puts Gainesville at 5-0 for the first time since 2006. Dating back to last season, the Red Elephants have won eight of their last nine games.
"Gainesville's a good football team," Sims said. "We want it so hard. No one could ever tell us that we haven't worked hard.
"All of our coaches told us that if we work hard, good things will happen, and that's what we believe in."
Sims went on to say that starting subregion play with a win will help the Red Elephants as the season progresses.
"It's going to help us out in the long run," he said. "We're going to try and win all our games until we get to (subregion foe) Flowery Branch.
"I'm not saying we're going to lose to them," he added. "I think we're going to drub them. But it might help us if we do lose to them."
A showdown with Flowery Branch on the last night of the regular season could determine who wins the region title, but Miller is not looking that far ahead. Right now, he's focused on next week's game against fellow unbeaten West Forsyth.
"I think we're for real, but we'll see next week when we play a tough and physical West Forsyth team," he said. "I don't know a whole lot about them other then they're a second year school and they're 5-0.
"Everybody thought coming in that the subregion might be between a couple teams," he added. "But it looks like they're going to have something to say about that."
Gainesville visits West Forsyth at 7:30 p.m. Friday. West Hall, which started the season 3-0, have lost two straight and try to get back in the win column when it plays host to Flowery Branch at 7:30 p.m. Friday.