GAINESVILLE — It was a crucial Region 6-7A game expected to be won in the trenches.
And in the end, West Forsyth’s big offensive line wore down a feisty Gainesville defense in a hard-nosed 14-7 win at City Park Stadium Friday night.
The Wolverines (5-3, 3-1 Region 6-7A) held the ball most of the final quarter and their defense held a Red Elephants team (5-3, 3-1 Region 6-7A) averaging 35.5 points a game to its lowest output of the season.
Still, Gainesville’s flair for late-game theatrics looked to rise to the occasion once again as the Red Elephants blocked a potential game-sealing field goal with just over a minute left in the game.
Senior quarterback Gionni Williams then marched the offense into West Forsyth territory and within striking distance with under 30 seconds left. But his potential game-tying pass to Lennie Chatman near the end zone was picked off and the Wolverines ran out the final seconds.
The loss knocked the Red Elephants into third place as the Wolverines now hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. It doesn’t get any easier as they take on first place Denmark next week.
Early on it also looked like luck would be on Gainesville’s side as West Forsyth missed a 35-yd field goal after stopping GHS on 4th down at the Red Elephants’ 30.
But after that, mistakes would be the order of the night for the Red Elephants.
They could not take advantage of the missed field goal and after a punt, the Wolverines struck first getting a 4-yard TD pass from Keegan Stover to Oscar Delp. But Gainesville helped. The drive looked dead after an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-25 but a personal foul penalty on the play kept the drive alive.
Gainesville’s only score came midway through the second quarter when Naim Cheeks scored on a 4-yard run to tie the game. It was set up by a 37-yard punt return by Chatman deep into Wolverines territory.
But the Wolverines took advantage of a pair of Gainesville defensive breakdowns in a late second-quarter drive, including a 24-yard screen pass for a TD on 3rd-and-9 call to reclaim the lead with just under two minutes left in the half.
Gainesville appeared to answer in dramatic fashion as Williams connected on a highlight-reel touchdown pass with Chatman with just seconds left. But the Red Elephants were called for holding on the play and the half ended with them still trailing.
The Gainesville defense, however, would put in one of its best performances of the season in the second half to keep them in the game. Twice the Wolverines drove into Gainesville territory, including at the end of the third quarter.
West Forsyth had a 1st-and-goal at the Gainesville 10 but a penalty, a sack by Lemuel Gayle, and an incomplete pass forced a 4th-and-goal at the 29 to start the 4Q. The Red Elephants forced another incomplete pass to get the ball back.
Gainesville used that to drive into West Forsyth territory but Williams was picked off to end the drive. That would be their best chance until the final moments.