Saturday August 13th, 2022 8:20PM

Game of the Week: Red Elephants face talented South Forsyth in key region game

By Bo Wilson | Video by Seth Chapman
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GAINESVILLE — Gainesville has had two weeks to rehash the upset loss from Lambert. 

It was a bad game all around for the Red Elephants. They turned the ball over four times and were down three scores for a couple of quarters but battled back to cut it to a one-score game with four minutes remaining before giving up a long touchdown run to fall, 37-28. 

Head Coach Heath Webb said his team learned a couple of things: don't turn the ball over, and the team's ability to fight back and not give up. 

Sure, it's a moral victory from a game the Red Elephants were favored in, but those lessons give mental clarity as they head into the meat of the Region 6-7A schedule. 

"I was proud of our guys," Webb said. "We learned our guys were going to fight. We had every opportunity to lay down and quit and refused to do so. We're excited about moving forward."

Gainesville will move forward on Friday as they play host to the top team in the region, South Forsyth, at City Park. Kickoff is slated at 7:30 p.m. and can be heard live on FM 94.5 The Lake. 

The Red Elephants still control their destiny and have a shot to win the region, but they can't afford any more hiccups in the schedule. Gainesville sits fourth in the region and with a win on Friday, they would lift themselves to at least a tie for second.

"It's fun probably from the fan's perspective," Webb said about the region race. "From a coach's perspective, it's anybody can beat anybody any week. We've seen it every week ... the team that's the supposed favorite goes down. It makes it the most interesting region in the state." 

Gainesville beat the War Eagles in 2020, 28-14, and while South is under the direction of a new coach, quarterback Kyle Durham (2,197 passing yards, 25 TDs, 434 rushing yards) transferred and 6-foot-7 tight end Devin McClockton graduated, the War Eagles still are a talented team. 

Ty Watkins stepped in at quarterback and has completed close to 60 percent of his passes for 1,058 yards and 11 touchdowns. Chris Nelson, the 2021 200-meter state champion, and Joshua Nelson lead the team in receiving with a combined 735 yards and eight touchdowns. 

Along with a solid passing game, the War Eagles add balance with a bruising rushing attack from a combination of three running backs, including Watkins. 

Austin Videl (209 yards), Gavin Morris (252 yards), Maverick Schippmann (228 yards), and Watkins (124 yards) give the War Eagles options out of the backfield. 

"They're different in the sense they don't have the big receiver and the quarterback that was super elusive," Webb said about South Forsyth. "What they've done, though, is they have bonded together and playing really good team football. They are really good upfront, and the 200-meter 7A champion is scary. So, they've got good pieces, and their coaching staff is doing a really good job."

The position to watch could be in the trenches. While the Red Elephants have shown they can throw it with sophomore quarterback Baxter Wright and run it with Naim Cheeks, the offensive line will have their hands full with a strong War Eagle rush that has 35 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks. 

Nathan Efobi (6-foo-4 junior tackle, 20 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss) and senior middle linebacker Cole Williams (31 tkls, 10 tfls) lead the War Eagles in tackles. 

"I know he's a big kid, he's a dog," Gainesville offensive tackle Elijah Ruiz said and Efobi. "I expect a big game out of him. It's nothing new, though. I like the competition. I'm hungry for it. We've got to come out with a lot of energy in this game." 

Webb said they'll have to create some plays and be patient against South Forsyth.

"We've got to be patient and understand how the game is playing out," Webb said. "Is it one of those run it 50 time nights, or is it one of those throw it 50 times nights? We have to figure out what it takes, not get bogged down in the game early and start fast."  

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: City Park Stadium, Gainesville
-- RADIO: 94.5 FM The Lake
-- SOUTH FORSYTH (5-1, 2-0 Region 6-7A): Defeated West Forsyth 30-24 last week
-- GAINESVILLE (4-2, 1-1 Region 6-7A): Off last week; lost 37-28 to Lambert two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: Gainesville leads series 3-2. The Red Elephants won 28-14 in 2020 in Cumming. Just the 2nd meeting since 2001. ... Another huge game in 6-7A. The War Eagles can cement themselves in the upper-tier with a win while the Red Elephants can pull into a tie with the War Eagles and get the tiebreaker with a win. ... The War Eagles already have matched their 2020 win total. And a current 5-game win streak is their longest since 2017. ... The War Eagles have been a tough road team. They are 3-1 and have won 3 straight, 2 in the region, so far in 2021. ... GHS is 3-1 at home in 6-7A play since joining the region last year. ... A key matchup will be the GHS defense, which has been hawkish with xx turnovers created, vs. War Eagles Jr. QB Ty Watkins. Watkins has thrown for 1,058 yards and 11 TD and no INTs. ... The GHS offensive line also will have a big task trying to slow down a War Eagles front-7 that has 35 TFL and 11 sacks so far.

  • Associated Categories: Sports, High School Sports, Friday Game Night
  • Associated Tags: Gainesville football, Game of the Week
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