"Playmakers" And "Fast" Defense Lead Gainesville To Win Over Lanier And 6-0 Start
After a week off last week, the Gainesville Red Elephants’ first season under head coach Josh Niblett resumed on Friday as they traveled to Sugar Hill, Georgia to take on the Lanier Longhorns in a region battle. Both teams headed into Friday nights’ contest 1-0 in the region standings, but overall, the Red Elephants boasted a 5-0 overall record, while the Longhorns were 2-3.
As the game got underway, the Longhorns would set the tone defensively as they would force a fumble and recover on Gainesville’s opening drive. And on the ensuing possession, Lanier would capitalize as quarterback Preston Ratliff would connect with Tayo Ashedele for a touchdown pass. The Longhorns would fail on the extra point attempt, however would have the early 6-0 lead.
Later in the first quarter, Lanier’s defense would come up with another big turnover after Gainesville had put together a solid drive, only to once again fumble the ball, with the Longhorns recovering. However, Lanier would not be able to generate points ono the ensuing possession and with the ball back in the Red Elephants hands, Gainesville quarterback, Baxter Wright would get his team on the scoreboard after rushing for the first of his four touchdowns, Gainesville would take the 7-6 lead after the extra point.
The Red Elephants would add their second score of the night as running back Naim Cheeks would rush for the first of his three touchdowns of the night, helping Gainesville take a 14-6 lead. Following the Red Elephants score, both teams would struggle offensively throughout the remainder of the second quarter and the score would remain 14-6 at the half.
However, Gainesville would come out full steam ahead to start the third quarter, scoring on back to back drives, including a 60 yard rushing touchdown by Cheeks on the second play of the quarter. And as the Red Elephants went up 28-6, which proved to be too much of a deficit for the Longhorns to overcome, particularly due to their offensive struggles.
Gainesville would go on to pick up the 42-14 win and improve to 6-0 on the season, 2-0 in region. And although, they picked up the victory, Coach Niblett knows that the various mistakes and penalties the Red Elephants had throughout the night, is something they must address and clean up. “We didn’t play very good tonight. We played good enough to win the game, but you know we made some mistakes and you could tell that we probably had a week or two off and that’s my fault as a head coach,” Niblett said, taking full responsibility for needing to “doing a better job for having us prepared”.
And while the Red Elephants may not have had the best outing according to their own standards, they made the necessary adjustments at the half which lead them to a 28 point second half and defensively only allow one touchdown. “When our offense compliments our defense, then we keep guys behind the sticks because our defense is fast. We played better on first downs on defense than we did in the first half and we got off the field on third down and on special teams, we had a big punt return,” Niblett said of the teams second half turnaround. Gainesville will have another week off next week and will be back in action against Habersham Central on October 14th.