GAINESVILLE -- What slump?
Gainesville football busted its first two-game losing skid since 2007 in emphatic fashion on Friday night, smacking Rome 41-14 in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs at City Park in Gainesville.
The Red Elephants (8-3) showed no ill effects from last week's gut-wrenching one-point loss in a Region 8-AAAAA title showdown, dominating the Bears (8-3) from start to finish, as they moved on to the second round of the postseason.
The Red Elephants will travel to face Kell next Friday in Marietta.
Gainesville's spread offense will certainly hope for more of what they produced this week. Led by quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Red Elephants torched Rome for 477 yards in the first round, including 298 yards and five touchdowns from the junior signal caller.
For all the talk of Rome's dominant ground game, the Red Elephants showed they too can run with effect, rushing 30 times for 269 yards, including 74 yards and a score on seven carries from Michael Byrd and 73 yards on 10 attempts by Jay Gaudlock. Watson also rushed for 90 yards and a TD.
Tray Harrison also had a big night for the Red Elephants, hauling in seven catches for 39 yards, while Chastin Newman caught two touchdown passes. Rodney Lackey also caught four passes for 52 yards and a score, while Caleb Hayman managed two grabs for 47 yards and a score.
Meanwhile, the Gainesville defense held the Bears' potent wing-T attack in check, as standout running backs Myron Washington and Frank Griffin managed just 65 and 69 yards, respectively. Gainesville also shut Rome's rushing attack out of the end zone until the fourth quarter when Washington scored from five yards. By then, the Red Elephants were already cruising toward next week's second round.
Rome finished the night with just 281 yards offense and only 111 in the first half. Gainesville did allow one touchdown pass in the first half, Bo Tucker connecting with Leif Womack from 14 yards. But Gainesville also intercepted Tucker to help build a 20-7 advantage that the Red Elephants stretched to 41-7 midway through the fourth quarter.