With so many expectations surrounding the Gainesville football program, it was important that the top-ranked team in Class AAA started the playoffs with a convincing win.
Blake Sims completed his first four passes, including two for touchdowns, and finished the game with 267 total yards and accounted for five touchdowns to lead the Red Elephants to a 42-0 win over Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs Friday at City Park.
With the win, Gainesville (11-0) advanced to the second round, where it will play host to Dunwoody (7-4) next Friday.
"We try to make a statement every Friday," said Sims, who rushed for a 62-yard touchdown during Gainesville’s first possession of the third quarter. "We just have to take it one game at a time."
The state’s highest-scoring offense wasted no time in putting on a show, as Gainesville scored on its first three possessions to build a 21-0 lead over the Warriors (7-4). Sims was involved in all three of those scores, rushing for a 3-yard touchdown to open the scoring, passing to Michael Lorentz for a 24-yard touchdown, and then completing a 45-yard touchdown pass to Tai-ler Jones two minutes later.
"That set the tone right there," Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. "When you get to the playoffs, you play to advance, and we did that."
Jones was on the receiving end of another first-half touchdown, catching a 30-yard pass and taking it 30 more yards for the score. That 60-yard reception put Jones over the 1,000-yard receiving plateau for the season. Jones finished the night with 159 yards on five receptions.
The 28-point halftime lead was more than enough, as Gainesville’s defense held the Warriors to just 65 yards of total offense in the first half and allowed them to cross midfield only three times.
And each of those times, Gainesville’s defense came up with a big play.
The first time Lakeview crossed into Gainesville territory, A.J. Johnson stopped Cody Commons on fourth-and-inches to give Gainesville the ball back. Four plays later, Jones caught the 60-yard pass to give Gainesville a 21-0 lead.
After a Sims interception set the Warriors up with a first-and-10 from Gainesville’s 20, the Red Elephants held their ground again, as Graham Simmons sacked Cody Commons on third down to force a punt.
"Once again our defense played great," said Miller, whose team held Lakeview to 88 yards of total offense and recorded its sixth shutout of the year.
While those two defensive plays were impressive, Gainesville’s biggest defensive stand came later in the half after the Warriors drove the ball down to the 3. On third-and-goal, Commons dropped back for a pass, fired the ball toward the end zone and Daunte Carr stepped in front of the intended receiver for an interception.
"Our team wanted a shutout and we got a shutout," Carr said. "We don’t take any team easy; we give it everything we got."
Up by 35 points after Sims’ 62-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, Gainesville decided to practice some plays that may be needed down the road. The Red Elephants kept the ball on the ground during its next possession, using every second of the play clock before the ball was snapped.
Even that method led to a touchdown, as Tyson Smith capped a nine-play, four-minute drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.
"Sometimes you’re going to have to milk the clock," Miller said. "Our guys have done a great job of staying focused and that is the ultimate goal, to milk the clock and score at the end."