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High school football: Gainesville extends playoff streak to 20 years with game against Allatoona
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Gainesville High quarterback Gionni Williams carries the ball for the Red Elephants for a big gain Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, during the first half of their game at The Branch. - photo by Scott Rogers

November of 2000 was an important month in American history for a number of reasons. “Remember the Titans” had just been released in theaters, and the Baha Men’s hit single “Who Let the Dogs Out” was atop the musical charts. 

Most importantly of all however, the Gainesville High football team played a postseason game against Hart County, the first contest of an incredible playoff appearance streak that the Red Elephants push to 20 consecutive seasons when they travel to take on Allatoona Friday in the first round of the Class 6A tournament. 

“It’s absolutely amazing that you can talk to your players about a playoff streak that started before they were even born,” Gainesville coach Heath Webb said. “It just drives home the fact that our players are in a tremendous program, and it’s an awesome legacy for us to build upon. It’s something that our players take great pride in that they were able to make number 20. It’s a significant number.”

The Red Elephants come into the game on a bit of a hot streak, despite falling in the final game of the regular season last Friday against Lanier. Prior to that loss, Gainesville had won three straight contests, and even including the narrow defeat, the team has scored at least 38 points in each of its past four tilts. 

Webb said the focus in the week leading up to tonight’s game against the Buccaneers has been on continuing that momentum, looking more at the positives from the loss to Lanier rather than just the final score. 

“Forget what the scoreboard said,” Webb said. “How did you play? When you look at the how did you play, we did a lot of really good things. Let’s just focus on that. I think the guys have bought into that.”

The Red Elephants will need to bring their best game if they want a chance to win against Allatoona, which enters the playoffs as the No. 8 team in Class 6A. 

It’s a team that Webb referred to as “old school” and “smash mouth.” Much like the Red Elephants themselves, the Buccaneers strength lies in their trench play and running game. It’s a battle of similar styles, and one that Webb is excited to be a part of. 

“The focus for this one is playing tough, because that’s what we’re expecting, is a tough, physical football game,” he said. “That’s what you get anytime you play Allatoona. That’s the program they’ve established.”

Webb expects the teams to be fairly evenly matched, but he’s hoping experience from last week’s game against Lanier gives his group the edge.

Though Gainesville lost the contest, Webb said the playoff-like experience it provided gives his players a preview of what the atmosphere at Allatoona may be like. With no more room for error, the Red Elephants will need to be prepared for loud fans and quick bounce backs if they want to advance to the next round. 

“We know there’s going to be those big emotional swings,” Webb said. “We’ll be able to respond well to those, because we’ve been in those moments.”

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