GAINESVILLE, Ga. — When Gainesville head coach Josh Niblett arrived on campus last December, he was straightforward about his plans for the Red Elephants: win championships.
"I didn't come here to win games; I came here to win championships," Niblett said during his introductory speech to the team.
Big Red missed the state playoffs for the first time in 21 seasons in 2021 and, prior to last season, hadn't gotten past the first round in the previous five tries.
Now, the Red Elephants are one game away from the Class 6A state championship game.
Gainesville will travel to McEachern High School in Powder Springs to play Roswell in the semifinals on Friday. Game time is set for 8 p.m. and can be heard live on AM 550 and FM 102.9 WDUN.
The game was moved to McEachern High School because the GHSA requires a Class 6A school to have seating for 6,000 or more. Roswell's stadium didn't meet those requirements.
"We'll play this thing anywhere," Niblett said after the game on Friday. "It doesn't matter. It's the semifinals. We've been on the road before and are battle tested. We're blessed. We just got to keep playing. We'll make sure we do a really good job of getting our kids ready to play."
The Red Elephants used big plays on offense and got a solid bend-but-don’t-break effort from their defense in holding off Houston County Friday night, 49-35, in the quarterfinals of the Class 6A playoffs at City Park Stadium. (YOU CAN READ THE GAME STORY HERE.)
It is Big Red's first trip to the semifinals since 2013.
"It's huge for our program, huge for our players, and it's huge for our community," Niblett said. "It's a great opportunity for us; we win it, we go to the state championship. It comes down to chemistry and character. We got to make sure we're good at both of them."
Jeff Hart contributed to this story.