Tucker marched 53 yards in 11 plays to score the winning touchdown with 2:22 left, and the Tiger defense held Gainesville to tie a season low with 14 points, as Class AAAAA No. 1 Tucker advanced to the state finals with a 20-14 win.
It wasn’t a flashy night for a Tucker offense that’s averaged close to 40 points during the season, and it was marred by penalties early.
But when the Tigers needed a score to avoid overtime against the defending state champs, they had enough in the tank.
The winning drive started on their own 47-yard line, after a Duke Shelley punt return set them up in good field position.
And, with the rain coming down hard, the Tigers (14-0) stuck to the ground game that got them to this point.
All 11 plays on the drive were runs, and Dominick Sanders took it the final 6 yards for the score that put Tucker in front for the first time.
After that, the defense just needed one more stop.
Stops haven’t been easy to come by for Gainesville opponents, against an offense led by quarterback and Clemson commit Deshaun Watson. The Red Elephants (12-2) had scored at least 28 in every game since a 38-14 loss to Buford in Week 2, but the Tucker defense did everything it could to disrupt the senior signal caller and his no-huddle attack.
“The tempo was unbelievable starting the game; everything was quick, quick, quick,” Tucker coach Bryan Lamar said. “We tried to simulate it as best as we could in practice, but you can’t simulate the tempo. We just locked it down and mixed up blitzes and zones … and tried to keep him off balance.”
It worked, as Tucker picked him off four times on the night, the final one coming on the second play of Gainesville’s final possession, effectively ending the Red Elephants’ season.
Sanders was the biggest standout for Tucker, with 127 total yards, along with two touchdowns. Quarterback Joseph Farrar was 3 of 4 for 112 yards and a touchdown in the second half.
Watson finished 20 of 34 for 185 yards, with 1 passing touchdown, 1 rushing touchdown and 4 interceptions.
Tucker will play Creekside for the Class AAAAA title at the Georgia Dome next weekend.
Gainesville 7 7 0 0 – 14
Tucker 0 7 7 6 – 20
G – Deshaun Watson 9 run (Gage Turner kick)
G – Jay Gaudlock 25 pass from Watson (Turner kick)
T – Detrick Dukes 9 pass from Joseph Farrar (Eric Weber kick)
T – Dominick Sanders 33 pass from Farrar (Weber kick)
T – Sanders 6 run (kick failed)