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High school football: Gainesville comes up short in tight loss to visiting West Forsyth
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Gainesville High's Naim Cheeks, left, reaches out for a pass Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, as West Forsyth's Bryce Allen covers him during the first half of their game in Gainesville at City Park Stadium. - photo by Scott Rogers

Gainesville’s perfect start to the region schedule came to a screeching halt Friday evening when the Red Elephants dropped a tight, 14-7 decision to visiting West Forsyth (5-3, 3-1 Region 6-7A). The defeat puts an end to a two-game win streak for Gainesville (5-3, 3-1 Region 6-7A), which had won four of its last five coming into Friday's contest.

Wolverines running back William Orris gained over 150 scrimmage yards on 36 touches in the win, scoring a touchdown on a screen pass in the second quarter. Naim Cheeks picked up 97 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown for Gainesville, adding five catches for 38 yards, but the effort was not enough to pull the Red Elephants to victory. 

It was Gainesville’s first matchup against West Forsyth since moving up to 7A this season, and after the game, Wolverines coach Dave Svehla was complimentary of the Red Elephants effort. 

“I thought they were a really very good football team,” he said. “You can tell that they’re disciplined and well coached. I thought their defense was very impressive. I thought they played really well.”

All the scoring in the contest came in the first half, beginning with a West Forsyth touchdown pass from Keegan Stover to Oscar Delp right before the end of the first quarter that capped off a 7-minute drive which took up over half of the frame.

Gainesville answered with a 4-yard run from Cheeks that was set up by a long punt return from Lenny Chatman, which gave the Red Elephants the ball inside the West Forsyth 20-yard line. The Wolverines responded with a touchdown pass to Orris on the ensuing possession to go up 14-7, and that was it for scoring in the game. 

The Red Elephants forced a punt, a turnover on downs and blocked a field goal on three defensive drives in the second half, but a pair of interceptions from Gionni Williams in the fourth quarter sunk Gainesville’s comeback hopes. 

“I’m proud of the effort,” Red Elephants coach Heath Webb said after the game. “I’m proud of the fact that they competed. Too many mistakes. Too many penalties. That’s what cost us the ball game tonight. We’ve got to get those cleaned up.”

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West Forsyth running back Ryder Stewart is taken down in the backfield by Gainesville High's Gionni Williams Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, during the first half of their game in Gainesville at City Park Stadium. - photo by Scott Rogers

COSTLY PENALTIES

Gainesville committed just five penalties in Friday’s loss, but they could not have come at worse times. 

In the first half, a personal foul following a West Forsyth incompletion on 3rd and 24 kept the ball with the Wolverines on a drive they would eventually score on. Later in the half, a late hit on a kickoff return set West Forsyth up with a short field, and the Wolverines capitalized again with another score. 

A Gainesville hold near the end of the second quarter negated a touchdown that would have tied the game up right before halftime, and an offside call in the fourth period gave West Forsyth a first down on 4th and 2. 

“We can’t make critical errors in critical times,” Webb said. “Things like that that have just got to get cleaned up for us to beat good teams like this.”

 

LEARNING FROM A LOSS

The Red Elephants have won a couple of close region games so far this season, and after each one, Webb has expressed how much the team takes away from pulling victory from the jaws of defeat. He said his team can take plenty of lessons away from the opposite happening too, as it did Friday evening. 

Webb said he has spent much of this season emphasizing to his players how important small mistakes can be in tight contests, and Friday’s defeat at the hands of West Forsyth was living proof of that concept.

“I think what we take away from this is in games like this, one-score games, mistakes are amplified,” he said. “We’re up by 21, a hold doesn’t have an impact on us, or a personal foul doesn’t have an impact on us. But in a one-score ball game where you’re playing against a very good defense, those mistakes are amplified. We’ve got to eliminate those.”

Gainesville goes on the road to face Denmark next week.

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