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High school football: Red Elephants facing gritty Lanier with home playoff game going to the winner
Gainesville's Dez Brown goes in for a touchdown against Habersham Central on Oct. 11 at City Park Stadium.

It’s been a wild, up-and-down kind of season for the Gainesville football team. But coming off of three straight region victories, the Red Elephants find themselves with a prime opportunity tonight against Lanier: a chance to earn a home playoff game. 

The winner between the Region 8-6A rivals will claim the No. 2 seed out of the region that carries with it the all important postseason home field advantage, for at least one game. 

“It’s great to be playing for something in Game 10,” Gainesville coach Heath Webb said. “That’s the big thing. You’ve got a two seed on the line, which gives us an opportunity to have a home playoff game back in City Park if we can pull off a win. So that’s great motivation for our guys. It’s created a lot of great energy around here, which has produced some really good practices this week.”

Energy has not been an issue lately for Gainesville. The team is on its hottest streak since Webb took over at the helm of the Red Elephants at the beginning of last season, averaging more than 45 points a game over the last three tilts. 

But even with all the momentum Gainesville has built, general soreness and fatigue will always be problematic this time of year. Getting a shot at one more home game has been exactly what the Red Elephant players have needed to push through tough practices and stay focused in preparations for Lanier. 

“It’s a long season, and it’s tough and it’s physical and it’s brutal,” Webb said. “You get all these bumps and bruises and those sorts of things. It just kind of rejuvenates the team when at this point in time, we have something really fun and interesting to play for. It just kind of breathes a little bit of life into the program after what’s been a long season.” 

When the teams do meet tonight, expect to see plenty of running, and a physical battle from start to finish. 

The Longhorns and Red Elephants play with similar philosophies in that both teams’ top focus regardless of matchup is to establish early dominance at the line of scrimmage. It’s the type of battle that Webb has no issue getting his team into. 

“Really, it’s a line of scrimmage ball game, and that’ll make for a good one at City Park,” he said.

Gainesville and its supporters are simply hoping it’s not the last one at City Park in 2019. 

With the stakes as high as they are and the competition as accomplished as the visiting 8-1 Longhorns, Webb said Friday’s game will provide the type of atmosphere that will teach him and his team plenty about what they’re capable of accomplishing. 

It’s the toughest test the recently surging Red Elephants have had to face since playing Dacula over a month ago, and should give some indication as to whether or not Gainesville’s late-season success is for real.

“It’ll certainly be a playoff atmosphere, which will be great for our team,” Webb said. “There’s a lot on the line. It’s a really good football team. All the things that you see in the playoffs, we’re going to get that a week early.”

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