The Red Elephants earned a trip to the Georgia Dome with a big AAAAA state semifinal win over the Wildcats on the road in Fayette County.
After a missed Whitewater field goal attempt, Gainesville quarterback Deshaun Watson connected with Chastin Newman on a 68-yard pass play to the Wildcats’ 3. The home team’s defense stiffened, but on fourth-and-goal Watson took the ball up the middle for a 2-yard score.
The Red Elephants held the Wildcats on the ensuing drive, taking over on their own 36 after a fourth-down stop on the final play of the first quarter. Watson found Michael Byrd for a 35-yard completion on first down, and later hooked up with Trey Harrison for a 23-yarder on fourth-and-14. That put the ball on the Whitewater 10, and two plays later Byrd scored on a 2-yard run.
Whitewater got on the board by mounting a 70-yard drive, capped off by Kendall Conley’s 28-yard scoring run. Gainesville got another big pass from Watson to Harrison, this time for 44 yards to the Wildcats’ 30, but was stopped there on downs.
A Whitewater fumble gave Gainesville another shot just before halftime, and the Red Elephants made it count. A 10-play, 36-yard drive ended with a 1-yard scoring pass from Watson to Rodney Lackey with three seconds left before intermission.
After the break the Gainesville offense picked up right where it left off, as Byrd burst up the middle and raced 55 yards for a touchdown less than a minute into the third quarter.
The Wildcats got back into the end zone in the fourth quarter after a drive that started at their own 22. Jay Ashley completed a 46-yard pass to Trevor Morgan on fourth-and-8 that put the ball at the Red Elephants’ 9. Ashley found Jake Carlson in the end zone on the next play, and Conley’s halfback pass to Ashley was good enough for the two-point conversion with 4:59 left in the game.
Whitewater tried an onside kick, but Gainesville recovered and was able to run out the clock.