GAINESVILLE — This one had been a long time coming.
After watching seven games slip past without a victory, Gainesville football finally notched its first win of the Heath Webb era on Friday, defeating Winder-Barrow 20-7 at City Park.
And after undergoing plenty of growing pains, Webb's Red Elephants (1-7, 1-2 Region 8-6A) know that a strong finish coul go a long way toward erasing memories of the start of the 2018 campaign, as they are still very much in the Region 8-6A playoff race with two contests remaining.
"This feels great, and I'm really happy for the kids. They've bought into my crazy way of thinking and have just worked so hard to get this done," Webb said. "We have so many young guys playing -- I think we've got 10 sophomores starting. But they know that if they keep fighting good things will happen."
Certainly Gainesville kept fighting on Friday, as two defenses slugged it out for three quarters in a scoreless tie until the Red Elephants got on the board with 8:26 remaining courtesy a 5-yard touchdown run from Gionni Williams.
Seconds later the defense rewarded its own hard work, as Gainesville sacked and stripped Winder quarterabck Jhaydon Sullivan. AJ Tolliver scooped up the loose ball and returned it 22 yards for the score and a 13-0 lead (after a failed point after attempt).
The Bulldoggs (2-6, 0-3) refused to wilt, however, finding their only real traction against a Gainesville defense that allowed just 117 total yards on the night -- including 15 yielded in the first half. Winder put together a 5-play, 56-yard drive capped by a Jamar Mack touchdown run to pull within 13-7.
After watching late leads slip in previous home contests this season, the Red Elephants were not about to let it happen again, and Williams capped a 3-play, 80-yard drive with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Lenny Chatman to regain a 20-7 advantage with 6:00 remaining.
The Red Elephants defense held serve the rest of the way, forcing a turnover on downs and pouncing on a fumble before the Gainesville offense ran out the clock.
Gainesville finished with 339 yards of offense, including 63 rushes for 279 yards -- 138 of that for Quintavious Hayes. Williams also completed 7 of 11 passes for 60 yards while rushing for 56 yards.
The Red Elephants travel to Apalachee next week for another crucial showdown with the Wildcats.