Gainesville overcame a slow start against Lambert Friday night, battling back from an early 14-point deficit to take down the Longhorns 42-35. The win keeps the Red Elephants (4-2, 2-0 Region 6-7A) perfect in region play in their first year at 7A, with both wins coming by 7 or fewer points.
“This region is going to be tight,” Gainesville coach Heath Webb said after the win. “Every ball game is going to be close. The fact that we found a way to win two of those ball games is important.”
Gionni Williams led the way for the Red Elephants, completing 10 of 14 passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns, and rushing 17 times for 84 yards and two more scores. Lambert QB James Tyre added 256 yards through the air and four touchdowns on 14 of 24 passing, but it was not enough to power the Longhorns to victory
Lambert got the scoring started, getting a pair of Tyre touchdown passes in the first quarter, one to Jack Stewart and one to Braden Bamburowski. Gainesville answered with short rushing touchdowns from Williams and Mori Young to tie the game briefly. A Harrison Peyton rushing score and another connection between Tyre and Stewart put the Longhorns up 28-14 midway through the second quarter, but it was all Red Elephants from there.
Williams completed a shovel pass touchdown Qua Coley right before the half to cut the deficit to a touchdown, and a 4-yard scoring run from Williams early in the third quarter tied things up at 28.
Gainesville took its first lead of the game early in the fourth on a short pass from Williams to Elias Ballard, and then extended that advantage with a 12-yard scoring run from Sam Perry.
Tyre hit Bamburowski for a late touchdown that brought it back to a one-score game, but it was too little, too late for the Longhorns, as the Red Elephants were able to run out the clock from there.
SPECIAL NIGHT FOR SPECIAL TEAMS
Special teams were key in the win for Gainesville, as the Red Elephants forced three turnovers on punt plays, converting all of them into touchdowns.
First, in the second quarter, Lambert muffed a punt that was jumped on by Gainesville on the 9-yard line, eventually turning into an easy score. Then in the second half, the Red Elephants blocked a punt and recovered a fumble off a bad snap on another Longhorn punt attempt to give the team three short fields.
“We work tirelessly on special teams,” Webb said. “It’s one of those things where we practice every special teams situation. All those things that happened tonight, we practice those things. So our guys were prepared for them and weren’t shocked by them. We do dedicate a lot of time to it. It’s won us a couple games this year, and hopefully it will win us some more moving forward.”
TALE OF TWO HALVES
Early on in Friday’s game, it appeared Gainesville’s defense would not be able to keep up with the Lambert offense. The Longhorns scored touchdowns on their first four possessions of the contest, and were facing little resistance from the Red Elephants in either the running or passing game.
That all changed at halftime, as Gainesville amped up the defensive intensity, holding Lambert scoreless for nearly two full quarters, and allowing just one touchdown in the second half.
So what was the difference for the Red Elephants?
“We gave them a good butt chewing at halftime,” Webb said.
According to Webb, the fact that Gainesville beat Lambert 55-7 a season ago caused the team to grow overconfident coming into Friday’s game and hurt them early in the contest. But the Red Elephants turned things around after a halftime wakeup call.
“We assumed we were going to just roll into this one and beat them like that again, and their coaching staff has done a great job in turning that thing around,” Webb said. “I think we just kind of got that attitude adjustment at halftime and made it work.”
Gainesville will be on bye next week, but will go on the road to play South Forsyth on Oct. 30 in Cumming.