ATLANTA – There are many ways to end a season. Gainesville may have stumbled upon one of the worst Friday night.
In their first round matchup with Westminster in the Class AAA state playoffs, the Red Elephants could hardly get out of their own side of the field, let alone keep the game close, losing to the Wildcats 48-8.
Westminster will face Carrollton next Friday.
"I think we overlooked them," senior receiver Tyler Adetona said. "They are a good, well-coached team."
Absolutely nothing worked for Gainesville. It was 5 yards forward then 10 yards back all night. One drive in particular summed up the Red Elephants’ night.
On its only threatening drive of the first half, already down 24-0, quarterback Justin Fordham completed a touchdown pass to Tyler Adetona from Westminster’s 16-yard line. The touchdown was called back because of an ineligible receiver penalty.
Two penalties and a bad snap later, Gainesville turned the ball over on downs at its own 20-yard line. Westminster kicked a 42-yard field goal four plays later.
That’s a 10-point, 80-yard swing.
"We just didn’t come out tonight," senior Fordham said. "We just weren’t clicking."
Nothing about Friday night resembled the Gainesville team that bounced back from a three-game losing streak to win its last three and make its seventh consecutive postseason.
The loss marked the fewest points scored for and most points scored against the Red Elephants this season.
Gainesville only started outside of its own 25-yard line once and often was facing more than 80 yards of field to the opposite end zone.
Westminster, on the other hand, started all but one of its possessions inside of Gainesville’s territory.
The Red Elephants had 13 first downs and only one play for over 30 yards, a far cry from the big-play offense it displayed all season.
Fordham completed of 23 of 39 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown but threw a season-high five interceptions.
"It was pretty much the worst game of my life," Fordham said while struggling to fight back tears.
In the first half, several of Fordham’s passes were dropped by his two most reliable receivers, Adetona and Gerald Ford.
"We just weren’t clicking," Adetona said. "We could have used some more protection."
Westminster did what several teams struggled to do against Gainesville, put pressure on Fordham. The senior quarterback was sacked twice and was forced to throw earlier than he is used to, leaving several passes short.
"They were just moving around and confusing us, confusing me," Fordham said. "We just couldn’t figure them out."
Gainesville’s only points, a 7-yard touchdown catch from Fordham to Adetona, came in the fourth quarter against the Wildcats’ second-string defense.
Westminster’s balanced offense performed as well as it has all season. The Wildcats put up 411 yards of offense, 213 on the ground and 198 through the air.
"They are as solid a team as I’ve seen," Gainesville senior linebacker Keith Wells said of Westminster. "They just attacked us."
The Wildcats scored three touchdowns by the pass, two by the run and kicked two field goals. They completed passes to six receivers and had six players run for positive rushing yards.
Westminster’s junior quarterback Tom Moak completed 8 of 13 passes for two touchdowns. He also ran for 54 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
Backup quarterback senior Clay Gibson ran for two touchdowns and threw for a third.
The Red Elephants slowly walked off the of the field and out of the cold after the lopsided loss became official.
Wells, who will be playing for Florida State next year, had a hard time putting his final season at Gainesville into words.
"It’s been a blur," he said.