GAINESVILLE — After two weeks of near-misses in an effort to make the Class 7A playoffs, Gainesville finally got what it wanted Friday night.
The Red Elephants used a stifling defense and a pair of timely touchdown runs from Naim Cheeks to beat North Forsyth 17-0 at City Park Stadium.
And the win for Gainesville (6-4, 4-2 Region 6-7A) accomplished several things all at once. It sealed a No. 3 seed in Region 6-7A, extended the Red Elephants’ playoff streak to 21 consecutive seasons, and it was their first-ever win over North Forsyth (6-4, 2-4 Region 6-7A) snapping a six-game losing streak to the Raiders. It also gave them their first winning regular season since 2015.
Gainesville had chances to clinch each of the last two weeks but losses to West Forsyth and Denmark made Friday's season finale a veritable must-win.
The Gainesville defense, which has been donwright stingy over the past month, was once again the star. They forced three North Forsyth turnovers and held the Raiders offense to less than 200 total yards for the game. The shutout loss was the first for the Raiders in 70 games going back to a 49-0 defeat to Northview in 2014.
While the defense was suffocating the Raiders, Cheeks gave the Red Elephants all they really needed with an electrifying 59-yard touchdown sprint just moments into the second quarter for a 7-0 lead.
It stayed that way until late in the third quarter when Giovanni Martinez drilled a 32-yard field goal following a Chamarion Bush interception deep in Raiders territory.
Gainesville was ready to add on early in the fourth when Jahleel Rivas-Dicks picked off a pass and returned it 65 yards to the Raiders 15. But a 35-yard Martinez field goal attempt hit the upright.
But Cheeks would seal it minutes later when he broke through the North Forsyth defense for a 39-yard touchdown run.
Gainesville will travel to Region 7-7A No. 2 seed Archer in next week’s opening round of the Class 7A playoffs.