LAWRENCEVILLE — Gainesville's venture into Class 7A, the state's largest classification, ended on Friday with a 21-14 loss to Archer in the first round of the playoffs.
But not without putting up a fight with one of the classification's traditional powers.
The Red Elephants led until early in the third quarter and after falling behind 14-6, rallied back behind freshman quarterback Baxter Wright and Gionni Williams to tie the game 14-14.
But, with just over a minute to go, Archer quarterback VaShaun Stockman converted a third-down pass to Derrick Moore extending the drive. Three players later Stockmann found Moore again, this time for the go-ahead, and the game-winning score.
For the most part, the opening round game was a defensive slugfest. Gainesville's Chamarion Bush blocked an Archer field goal, and Archer's defensive picked off Red Elephant quarterback Gionni Williams.
Gainesville, however, cashed in the blocked field goal when Wright walked into the end zone from three yards out to go up 6-0 after the missed extra point. Sophomore running back Naim Cheeks carried most of the load on the drive.
The Tigers grabbed their first lead, 7-6, early in the third quarter on a blocked punt, which was scooped up and taken in for the touchdown.
Archer added its second touchdown on a 54-yard Stockman run, going up 14-6.
But Gainesville didn't surrender and found success late in the final frame thanks to big runs from Wright. The freshman quarterback broke off runs of 25 and 22 on the drive that set up an easy score for Williams -- a 4-yard run. Wright, behind a massive block from Cedric Nicely, converted the game-tying two-point conversion to tie the game, 14-14.
The Red Elephants finish the season 6-5 -- the first winning season since 2015.