Gainesville football coach Heath Webb is upbeat about playing in a geographically-concise Region 6-7A.
Every Friday during region play, the Red Elephants will be playing against a program in Forsyth County. Gainesville has faced both Lambert and North Forsyth each of the past two seasons, while the Red Elephants faced West Forsyth four times between 2008-2013.
The only other Forsyth schools that Gainesville has played in the 21st century are Forsyth Central and South Forsyth, both in 2000 and 2001.
Denmark, in the Alpharetta portion of Forsyth County, is entering Year 3 and will be a first-time matchup against Gainesville.
Overall, Webb is eager for the challenge on the table in 2020.
He said it’s going to be a battle every week. Gainesville’s coach anticipates the margin between the four playoff teams to be incredibly thin.
“I love the new region,” Webb said. “It’s going to be very competitive and hopefully one we can tie in to for many years to come.”
Gainesville’s coach said he expects it to be a wide-open battle for playoff spots, which might last until after the regular season ends just before Thanksgiving.
“It could come down to the final two minutes of the final week of the season, then point differential against one another to see who gets in the playoffs,” Webb said. “It really could be that close.”
With the two-week delay to open the season, Gainesville opens region play against Forsyth Central on Oct. 2 in Cumming and wraps up the season with a region contest against North Forsyth on Nov. 20 at City Park Stadium.
The Red Elephants are making the move up from Class 6A, where they played the past four seasons.
In Region 6-7A there are three new coaches: Mike Palmieri (Denmark), Tommy Watson (Lambert) and Dave Svehla (West Forsyth). Palmieri is the most high profile of the new coaches, after taking Mallard Creek (Charlotte, North Carolina) to four straight state championships and 136 wins since 2007.
“The first thing I notice is there are three new coaches at those Forsyth schools,” Webb said. “What’s their philosophy?
“We really don’t know what to expect yet.”
The biggest prospects in Forsyth County this season are Denmark senior quarterback Aaron McLaughlin (an N.C. State pledge), who topped 2,000 passing yards for the Danes in 2019, and West Forsyth offensive tackle Dylan Fairchild, who is verbally committed to Georgia.
Otherwise, it’s a run-heavy region with almost every school returning key players out of the backfield. That shouldn’t be a problem for Webb. The Red Elephants are gifted up front on defense with three returning starting linemen and have the depth to go ‘8 or 9 guys deep’ up front.”
In Forsyth County, the leading returning running back is North Forsyth senior Jared Lucero (874 yards, six touchdowns in 2019).
Eli Ruis and Bronson Landreth (Forsyth Central), Tre Green (South Forsyth) and Daba Fofana (West Forsyth) each rushed for more than 500 yards last season and will back in 2020.
Gainesville has a playoff streak going back to 2000 but looking for its first winning season since 2015. In 2019, North Forsyth, South Forsyth, West Forsyth and Denmark were all playoff teams.