GAINESVILLE -- While a number of people were already looking ahead to next week's Gainesville at Flowery Branch showdown for the Region 8-AAAAA crown, Loganville let it be known that there was still one big obstacle in the Red Elephants' way.
The Red Devils couldn't derail the showdown in the Branch for the 8-AAAAA crown, but they sure gave Gainesville plenty to think about, as they came into City Park and pulled out a 46-41 victory on Friday night.
Loganville (3-6, 2-5 Region 8-AAAAA) knocked off the fifth-ranked Red Elephants via a tenacious second-half effort and plenty of Gainesville mistakes, as the home team gave away four fumbles in the second half alone.
The Red Devils also recovered a late onside-kick, taking over and marching toward the winning touchdown with just under 30 seconds to play. Gainesville (7-2, 6-1) nearly fashioned a last-ditch reply, but three shots at the end zone with less than 20 seconds remaining came up empty.
Loganville took the battle to Gainesville early, trading touchdowns throughout the first half before the Red Elephants finally fashioned some breathing room at halftime at 41-20. But Gainesville errors and a relentless Red Devils offense made the difference in the second half, as the Red Elephants managed just 10 offensive plays and 50 yards over the third and fourth quarters.
Loganville finished with 415 yards for the game, including 222 rushing -- 97 on 30 carries from running back Bernard Meriweather. Back-up quarterback Josh Laughlin also proved a difference-maker, entering after starter Royce Harrison was hurt in the first half and completing 11 of 17 passes for 191 yards.
Gainesville was led by 267 yards passing from Deshaun Watson, who completed 18 of 23 attempts while also rushing for 28 yards. The Red Devils run defense held the Gainesville ground game in check throughout the night, allowing just 59 yards.
Mike Byrd led Gainesville with five catches for 80 yards, while Caleb Hayman snagged four passes for 82 yards.
Gainesville will travel to face Flowery Branch next Friday for the 8-AAAAA crown. The loser will drop into the No. 2 seed for the upcoming state playoffs.