Just about everything went right for the Gainesville football team Friday night, as the Red Elephants (2-1) ran all over the visiting Discovery Titans (1-3) in a 48-0 blowout in the home opener that was never really in doubt.
Gainesville quarterback Gionni Williams completed 4 of 9 passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns, adding 63 rushing yards on seven carries to lead the Red Elephants to the win. Defensively, Gainesville was even better, allowing just 16 total yards of Titans offense and forcing a trio of first-half turnovers.
“We challenged them to play with passion and intensity and to assert dominance out the gate, and they did exactly that,” Gainesville coach Heath Webb said. “We felt like we were the better football team. The challenge was to go prove it and dominate, and they did.”
The Red Elephants were hot from the start, forcing a three-and-out to start the game and then getting a 53-yard pass from senior quarterback Gionni Williams to fellow senior Lenny Chatman on the first offensive play of the game that set the tone for the dominating win. Naim Cheeks would finish that opening drive off with a 10-yard score two plays later, and scored from 1 yard out later in the opening period.
Gainesville added a 6-yard passing touchdown from Williams to Samaj Brown, as well as a 7-yard rushing score from Chatman early in the second quarter to push even further into the lead. The Red Elephants capped the half off with Jahleel Rivas-Dicks interception off a tipped pass that he returned 32 yards in the other direction to put Gainesville on top 38-0 at halftime.
The Red Elephants kept the foot on the gas in the second half, allowing just 3 total yards of offense in the final two quarters and picking up a 10-yard passing score from Williams to DJ Miller early in the third to cruise to the easy victory on senior night.
It was a timely win for Gainesville, which fell in a narrow defeat to rival Flowery Branch last Friday and was in need of a bounce back, according to Webb.
“Every week is different, and that’s something we talked about this week,” he said. “A loss last week doesn’t guarantee a loss this week unless you allow it to mentally. So we asked our guys to mentally refocus, and they did that.”BOOGIE NIGHTS
It was an interesting night for Gainesville’s swiss army knife — Lenny “Boogie” Chatman.
Chatman was impactful in all three phases of the game. Offensively, he grabbed a 53-yard pass streaking down the right side of the field on Gainesville’s first offensive play and scored on a 7-yard rush in the second quarter. On the defensive side of the ball, he picked off Discovery quarterback Rashad Ray on the Titans’ second possession of the game to set up a Red Elephant field goal drive. Chatman also had a 37-yard punt return late in the first quarter that would lead to a Gainesville touchdown, and had a few more explosive returns called back on penalties.
All told, Chatman finished the game with 124 all-purpose yards, a touchdown and an interception. Webb said that while Chatman’s athletic ability makes him dangerous with the ball in his hands, it’s his smarts that make him such a versatile player.
“He can do so many things, and he’s able to do so many things because he’s got such a high football IQ that we can put him wherever we want to put him,” Webb said. “He just understands the game.”DOMINATING DEFENSE
The Gainesville defense played about as complete a game as you’ll ever see Friday night.
The Red Elephants held Discovery to just 16 total yards on the day, and the visiting team gained just one first down all night — which came off a pass interference penalty.
Titans quarterback Rashad Ray completed just 1 of 14 passes for 1 yard and two interceptions, with several of his attempts batted down at the line as Red Elephant defensive linemen got through to him on virtually every play.
Webb said before the game he challenged his defensive line players to make things easier on the linebackers and defensive backs by getting early pressure on Ray, and the unit answered the call.
“It all started up front,” Webb said of his team’s thorough defensive performance. “Those guys did a good job.”