GAINESVILLE — The only motivation Gainesville needs going into the non-region contest against Class 7A North Forsyth is last year’s score, 24-21.
As a matter of fact, coach Heath Webb reminded his troops with a Monday afternoon matinee movie and popcorn.
OK, there was no popcorn, but the movie was titled, “last-second touchdown that beat the Red Elephants at City Park last year.”
The Raiders’ go-ahead score came off a Carter Mullikin pass to Charlie Akin with 20.2 seconds left in the game. It was the Raiders' first and only lead of the game.
"When our kids showed up on Monday, that's the first thing we looked at," Webb said about last year's game film. "We pulled that film up and reminded them of how that thing finished last year. We took that piece of film and used it as motivation for this week.”
Motivation or not, Gainesville enters tonight’s game in Coal Mountain coming off a massive win against Mary Persons last week.
The Red Elephants ran over the Bulldogs behind its big offensive line anchored by Jordan Williams, Cedric Nicely, and Elijah Ruiz. They pounded the Mary Persons defense for 344 yards on the ground on 50 carries. Senior running back Dez Brown and junior quarterback Gionni Williams both eclipsed the century mark. Senior JD Brooks just missed on a 100-yard game of his own with 91 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries -- he had 50 yards and a touchdown called back on penalties.
"We have to play with that same level of intensity as we did last week,” Webb said. “That's going to be a challenge because we played sky high. “So we need to carry that over and do it on the road. Typically, we always play really well in City Park. We have to take that atmosphere and intensity on the road.”
North Forsyth struggled to find paydirt in a 29-14 loss at Cherokee in the season opener and was shutout in the first half. Cherokee’s defense held the Raiders to just 243 yards, 185 through the air and 58 on the ground. And North’s biggest weapon, senior wideout, Nicky Dalmolin, a Duke-commit, was held to only 65 yards on seven catches.
But for Webb, those are just numbers. He said preparing for North's multiple-look offense has been a challenge.
“North Forsyth is a tough physical football team for sure, very well-coached,” he said. “You’re unlikely to get them out of position – they do a lot of things offensively. So we have to be prepared for a lot of stuff.”
The Raiders have the ability to attack downfield with coach Robert Craft’s spread-look offense. Dalmolin is a big target, at 6-foot-4, and will sprint away if he is given the chance.
They’ll look to new quarterback Brady Metz to steer the offense but have a young offensive line protecting him. Metz was 16-34 for 185 yards with one TD and two interceptions last week.
As for the defense, the Raiders run multiple looks but gave up 279 yards through the air and three touchdowns and 101 yards on the ground to Cherokee. Webb, however, said the multiple-front defense could confuse the Red Elephant O-Line if they don’t recognize the changes.
“Recognizing their fronts is going to be the biggest challenge for our offensive line because they switch back and forth from odd to even,” Webb said. “If our guys can recognize their fronts, we should be in good shape.”
North returns leading tackler Jack Tucker at linebacker and Sam Thompkins and Max Bryant on the defensive line. Overall, the Raiders return 12 players on the defensive side of the ball that have varsity experience.
“Defensively, they’re just a tough physical group,” Webb said. “They do multiple things on the defensive side as well. So we have to be prepared for changes in coverages. There's a lot to prepare for there”
GAINESVILLE at NORTH FORSYTH
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
-- WHERE: Raider Valley, Coal Mountain
-- RADIO: 94.5 FM The Lake
-- GAINESVILLE (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-6A): Defeated Mary Persons 27-21 last week
-- NORTH FORSYTH (0-1, 0-0 Region 8-3A): Lost 29-14 to Cherokee last week
-- NOTABLE: North Forsyth leads series 5-0. The Raiders won 24-21 in 2018 in Gainesville. The Raiders won the game on a TD pass with 20 seconds left. ... North Forsyth is one of just three schools (Lanier and Dacula also) all-time the Red Elephants have never beaten in five or more tries, with four of the losses coming in the last 1990s to former Gainesville coach Bruce Miller when he coached at North Forsyth. ... This could be Gainesville’s best chance to end the streak. The Red Elephants ground game looked as good as advertised last week. Their big offensive line helped pave the way for 344 yards rushing and a pair of 100-yard gainers in Dez Brown and QB Ginonni Williams. JD Brooks (91 yards) just missed a 100-yard game of his own. ... The Gainesville defense also did not allow a point over the final 27 minutes of play to a good Bulldogs offense. The only score for Mary Persons after the second quarter came on a kickoff return for a TD. ... The Raiders are looking to avoid their first 0-2 start to a season since 2014. Gainesville has not started a season 2-0 since 2009.