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Gainesville's defense showing no mercy
Red Elephants looking to extend shutout streak
Gainesville High’s Kendrick Millsap hauls in a pass next to teammate Justin Owens during the Red Elephants’ practice Wednesday afternoon. This Friday night the team will travel to White County High to take on White County.

Gainesville at White County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Warriors Stadium, Cleveland

Coaches: Gainesville, Bruce Miller; White County, Gregg Segraves

Records: Gainesville (2-0), White County (2-0)

Key players: Gainesville, QB Blake Sims (6-1, 180 Sr.), WR Tai-ler Jones (5-11, 170 Sr.), LB A.J. Johnson (6-3, 225 Jr.). White County, DT Tyler Hamilton (6-1, 285 Sr.), RB Ashely Lowery (6-1, 170 Jr.), LB/TE Adam Hooper (5-10, 220 Jr.).

Outlook: White County’s linebackers vs. Gainesville’s QB.

Prediction: Gainesville. The Red Elephants survive and keep their record unblemished for next week’s battle against North Hall at City Park.

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The Writers Block: Jon Zopf and Brent Holloway talkin' football

Like any good defensive coordinator, Jim Pavao is detailed in his tracking of players stats. The Gainesville High assistant coach keeps a tally of all the typical numbers like tackles, big hits, sacks, interceptions and turnovers.

But there’s one stat kept for second-ranked Gainesville’s (2-0) team that gets Pavao more excited that any other: no loafs.

Through eight quarters of play this season, and two shutout victories, Pavao hasn’t had to subtract any points for players giving less than 100 percent on a given play.

That includes second and third string players that have hit the field in easy victories against Chestatee and Franklin County.

"Our guys just have a mentality to swarm to the football and get to the ball on every single play," Pavao said.

"That means a lot for our guys on defense to be going all out the entire game," Gainesville head coach Bruce Miller said. "That’s what coach Pavao demands from them."

Tonight in Cleveland, the Red Elephants get a chance to keep that prolific streak alive against White County.

With a common opponent in Franklin County, Miller knows that the Warriors (2-0) are a team to take very seriously with their steady ball-control offense that resulted in a 33-0 win against East Hall last week.

White County coach Gregg Segraves welcomes the chance to play against Gainesville, and its defense that includes what he says are some of the best linebackers he’s coached against.

"We always enjoy getting to play against Gainesville," Segraves said. "It’s another game for us to get better and we want to continue to improve."

Gainesville linebackers A.J. Johnson and Thomas Sprague take a lot of pride in the fact that they haven’t allowed a point as a unit this season. They both approach their individual responsibility with the mindset that if they don’t allow any points, they can’t lose. It’s a streak the Red Elephants’ linebackers clearly want to keep alive.

"Our whole defense is just hyped up and everyone is trying to be the first one to the football," Johnson, a junior, said. "We know it’s our job to stand up and stop the other team’s offense every time we hit the field."

"We take a lot of pride in not letting the other team score," Sprague said. "We’re a very focused defense."

Miller and Pavao both acknowledge that White County presents a unique challenge to the defense. Not only do the Warriors have their traditionally stout line of scrimmage, but they can also run and pass efficiently.

White County is led by junior running back Ashely Lowery (156 yards, three TDs) and junior receiver Cam Segraves (15.2 yards per catch, TD).

On the defensive side, senior tackle Tyler Hamilton (6-1, 285 pounds) and junior linebacker Adam Hooper (16 tackles) lead the way.

"We’re doing the same thing we’ve been doing for four years now," Segraves said. "We run the spread (on offense) and just try to stay balanced in what we do."

"They’re the best offense we’ve faced this season," Pavao said. "They run well, have a big line, the quarterback can run and they have good receivers.

"That’s a well-coached bunch."

An interesting aspect to the White County-Gainesville series is how close games played at White County have been in recent seasons.

After a fumble on the opening kickoff, Gainesville escaped Cleveland with a 21-19 win in 2007. In 2005, the game was just as close with Gainesville winning 10-7. Miller says there’s a built-in disadvantage to playing on the road.

"I say when you’re on the road, and get off the bus, you’re already down a touchdown," Miller said.

Last year’s game at City Park was close early before the Red Elephants broke away in the second half for a 30-7 victory.

This season, Miller says that his team’s execution has continued to get better week by week, as well as handling the expectations for success that are coming with the program this season. "We just have to continue to go out and play hard every single week," Johnson said.

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