ATHENS -- Gainesville passed its biggest test in weeks with relative ease on Friday, bouncing back from an early Clarke Central touchdown to knock out the Gladiators 56-28 in Athens.
The Red Elephants' offense shredded Clarke Central for 474 yards, including 321 total yards and six touchdowns from quarterback Deshaun Watson -- three passing, two rushing and one receiving. The senior standout lined up at receiver for a handful of snaps and hauled in two catches for 18 yards and a score. More conventionally, he completed 26 of 35 passes for 238 yards, including 20 first half completions to help Gainesville see off the Gladiators.
Clarke Central took a 7-0 first quarter lead, only to see the Red Elephants (7-1, 6-0 Region 8-AAAAA) respond immediately through Orrin Ragland's 97-yard touchdown return. The score was part of five straight scores for Gainesville, which took control of the contest.
Clarke Central (5-2, 4-1) did manage 383 yards -- but only 125 of that in the first half. By the time the Gladiators added the other 258, fourth-ranked Gainesville had grabbed control. Clarke Central was led by quarterback Cameron Johnson, who completed 23 of 29 passes for 272 yards.
Jay Gaudlock helped lead the Red Elephants' aerial attack, catching eight passes for 81 yards and two scores, while Michael Byrd caught seven passes for 54 yards and a score, as well as rushing for a game-high 80 yards. Rodney Lackey also managed five catches for 41 yards and Chastin Newman had four receptions for 60 yards.
Gainesville will take a bye next week before playing at Loganville on Nov. 1. The Red Elephants are one of only two teams undefeated in 8-AAAAA play, along with Flowery Branch.