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High school football: With two games left, Gainesville still in the race for the Region 6-7A championship
With postseason berth already in hand, Red Elephants can still win region championship, secure home playoff game
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Gainesville High running back Naim Cheeks is dragged down Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, by West Forsyth's Greyson Brockman after a big gain during the first half of their game in Gainesville at City Park Stadium. - photo by Scott Rogers

With a playoff berth already in hand, the sky’s the limit for Gainesville. 

At 3-1 in Region 6-7A, the Red Elephants (5-3 overall) have successfully extended a postseason streak that has gone uninterrupted since 2000. 

However, with two regular season games left on the schedule, Gainesville has much higher goals in mind. 

In fact, the possibility of the Red Elephants’ first region championship since 2013 (one year after winning the Class 5A state championship) and their first winning season since 2015 are both within reach. 

“I’m very happy to be at the point where we can worry about only having to handle our own business,” Red Elephants coach Heath Webb said. “When you play in a really tough region, this is a good place to be.”

Gainesville took its only region loss last week, a 14-7 decision against West Forsyth at City Park Stadium. 

Still, as a product of playing in a region with six tough schools in Forsyth County, losing one game is not the end of the world, by any means. 

Webb felt certain, before the season started, that the region champion would have at least one loss in league play. 

If Gainesville wins out against Denmark (4-3, 4-0) on Friday, in Alpharetta, then North Forsyth (6-2, 2-2) on Nov. 20 at City Park Stadium, then the Red Elephants will have a shot at a region championship for the first time since its quarterback was Deshaun Watson. West Forsyth, at 3-1 in Region 6-7A, would hold the tiebreaker against Gainesville, as a result of the Week 9 head-to-head meeting.

If the Red Elephants win out, they’re guaranteed a home playoff game, which is a huge motivator to Webb and his program.

“Heck yeah we wanna start the playoffs at home,” Webb said with a chuckle.

However, it’s first things first as Gainesville looks to improve its postseason seeding. 

This week, Gainesville will get a firm challenge against the Danes, the only team with an undefeated region mark in 6-7A. 

Denmark, which is guided by senior quarterback Aaron McLaughlin, has one of the most balanced offenses in the state. McLaughlin, who is committed to North Carolina State, has thrown for 924 yards and 12 touchdowns, in just five games, and rushed for 638 yards. 

McLaughlin missed the first three games of the season (all non-region) while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

Webb doesn’t take lightly the talents of McLaughlin, who spent his first two years in high school as starting quarterback for Buford. 

“(McLaughlin) is the biggest, strongest kid on their team,” Webb said. “He runs really well and is really hard to tackle.”

Denmark’s offense is split almost 50-50 between the run and passing game. 

The Danes have run for 1,103 yards and 1,137 passing yards. 

Friday’s games

Cherokee Bluff vs. North Hall

Gainesville at Denmark

Flowery Branch at Chestatee

Johnson at Clarke Central

East Hall at Madison County

Lakeview Academy vs. St. Francis

Regional events