OAKWOOD — The top-ranked Gainesville Red Elephants have increased their point total every week, and on Friday against West Hall, they nearly equaled their season-high total of 55 points in the first half.
The Red Elephants (5-0, 1-0 Region 7-AAA) scored on every possession in the first half to build a 49-6 lead and cruise to a 56-13 win over West Hall (0-5, 0-1) in the subregion opener.
“We were hitting on all cylinders on offense,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. “I told them all week that I wanted them to improve and they did.”
Senior quarterback Blake Sims was the catalyst behind Gainesville’s perfect offensive first half, completing 7-of-9 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 69 yards and another score.
“We wanted to start fast and keep it going,” said Sims, who scored the game’s first touchdown on a 26-yard run on fourth-and-1 on Gainesville’s first possession.
From that point on it was all Gainesville. The Red Elephants scored two more times in the first half, on a Sims to Tai-ler Jones 35-yard pass and a 2-yard run by Tyson Smith.
Senior Teryan Rucker excited the Gainesville faithful with a sparkling 50-yard run to start the second quarter in which he started down the left sideline, crossed the field, got a nice block from Jones and a huge block from Sims and scampered into the end zone.
“It wasn’t planned,” said Rucker, who finished with 127 yards on eight carries. “I saw daylight and my quarterback and receivers had great blocks downfield. That shows we play as a team because without them I would not have got to the end zone.”
Jones and Sims combined to score two of Gainesville’s next three touchdowns in the half, with the first coming on an option pitch from Sims to Jones, who took it 20 yards for the score.
After Sims shoveled a touchdown pass to Desmund Hamilton to increase the lead to 42-0, the Spartans finally got on the scoreboard thanks to a long run from Shunquez Stephens.
With the ball on their own 45, Stephens scrambled for 58 yards to set up a 3-yard touchdown pass to William Stroup. The junior quarterback finished with 108 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Gainesville quickly answered back with a screen pass from Sims to Jones, who raced 68 yards down the field and into the end zone.
“Those touchdowns really helped set the tone for the whole game,” Miller said.
Sims, Jones and Rucker did not play in the second half after combining for 360 yards and seven touchdowns in the first half.
With the three playmakers on the bench, Miller called on freshman quarterback Keontra Harrison to secure the victory. Harrison, who was filling in for an injured Stephen Mason, scored on a 6-yard run in the third quarter and finished the game with 40 yards rushing.
Stephens, who was sacked four times in the game, connected with Dylan Bartlett on an 8-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter for the game’s final score.
Miller complimented Stephens for his play and stated that he was still not satisfied with his team’s pass defense.
“We have to work on it, but we’ll get better,” Miller said.
Gainesville has now won eight straight against West Hall, and with the offensive starters playing only one half will be well rested when it plays host to West Forsyth next Friday.
West Hall visits Flowery Branch at 7:30 p.m. Friday.