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FOOTBALL 2020: Gainesville equipped with talent across the line, trio of QBs in move up to Class 7A

The Northeast Georgia Health System is sponsoring this year’s football preview coverage, as a season unlike any other begins this fall. Sports coverage is independently reported. Please consider supporting our work by subscribing to The Times.

The Gainesville High School football team has qualified for state playoffs in each of head coach Heath Webb’s first two seasons with the team, and Webb and the Red Elephants are hoping to push that to three straight in 2020. 

Gainesville finished 5-6 last season, going 3-2 in region contests to earn the No. 3 seed out of Region 8-6A before losing to Allatoona in the first round of 6A state playoffs. But much will be different for the Red Elephants this season, their first after being moved up to 7A and thrown into a whole new region’s worth of teams.

SHUFFLE IN THE TRENCHES

Webb views his offensive and defensive lines as a strength, despite both of his top players from 2019 moving on to Division-I programs. Offensive tackle Jordan Williams now plays at Georgia Tech, while defensive tackle Makius Scott is at South Carolina.

Part of that continued optimism comes from the experienced players who will be coming back for the Red Elephants up front. Outside of Williams and Scott, Webb said the team is returning pretty much every significant contributor from last years offensive and defensive lines. Senior Ignacio Olvera will be switching over from defensive to offensive line to help make up for the loss of Williams. The defensive line, meanwhile, is team’s deepest unit, according to Webb.

“We’ve got about nine guys we can roll in there and not miss a beat,” he said. “I kind of feel like on the defensive line we’ve got nine starters really. So those guys will just continue to roll in there.”

Webb said the team even acquired some new talent for the trenches, recruiting three 300-plus pound players to man the offensive and defensive lines “in the hallways.”

Between the returning and new talent on the two units, Webb’s self-dubbed “Love a Lineman” program will continue having its line play as a strength.

“The unit as a whole will probably be better simply because they’re a year older, more seasoned, and all that experience,” Webb said. “Still feel really good about both lines of scrimmage.”

‘THE DEEPEST QUARTERBACK ROOM IN THE STATE’

Senior Gionni Williams has started the last 17 games at quarterback for the Red Elephants, but Webb said this year’s competition for the starting spot is “very tight.”

Williams is once again joined by Tristan Lyon, who has been the backup quarterback and starting punter for the team for the last two years. Freshman Baxter Wright, one of the nation’s top prospects at his position in the Class of 2024, also has a shot at winning the starting job.

“It’s probably the deepest quarterback room in the state,” Webb said.

Webb said Wright is “the kind of kid who’s got the ability to be really special,” but none of the three players has been able to separate himself from the other two yet. 

And while the competition means Gainesville has some uncertainty regarding who the opening day starter will be, Webb called the three-headed quarterback conundrum “a great problem to have.”

“We can start a ball game tomorrow and I could pick one of those guys out of a hat and be completely happy and know that we’re going to be a good football team with any of those three guys,” he said. “So we’ll continue to let the competition play out and see how it goes.”

NEW REGION, NEW DYNAMIC

Gainesville was recently bumped up into Region 6-7A, pitting the Red Elephants against six Forsyth County schools on a yearly basis. Webb said he sees the move up as overwhelmingly positive for the team. 

“I love the new region,” he said. “I think it’s going to be very competitive week in and week out. All those teams have good talent level and good coaching.”

Gainesville joins Denmark as a fellow newcomer in the state’s highest classification. The Forsyth County public school teams welcome the Red Elephants and Danes in place of Milton, which has gone undefeated against in region games for the last two years.

Outside of Milton, every member of the Forsyth County-heavy region won either 4 or 5 games last season, and Webb believes the region will be tight once again in 2020.

I think the difference between the first place team and the fourth place team will be very minimal,” he said. “I think it’s going to be one of those anybody can beat anybody on any given night kind of deals. It should make for a lot of fun.”

Gainesville roster

1. Sam Perry Jr. RB/DB

2. DJ Miller Jr. WR/CB

3. Cameron Cantrell Sr. DB

5. Tristan Lyon Sr. QB/P

6. Demarrie Hayes Jr. RB/LB

7. Qua Coley Jr. DL

8. Yusif Ali Sr. TE/LB

9. Gionni Williams QB/DB

10. JQ Drinkard Jr. WR

11. Baxter Wright Fr. QB

12. Ellis Pitts Fr. QB/DB

13. Ramsey Waters Sr. WR

14. Naim Cheeks So. RB/DB

15. Quamaine Rucker Sr. LB

16. Chamarion Bush Jr. DB

17. Clayton Louis Sr. DL

18. Vinson Pierre So. WR

19. Samaj Brown So. TE

20. Elias Ballard So. WR/DB

21. Jahleel Rivas-Dicks Sr. DB

22. Lenny Chatman Sr. WR/DB

23. Ahman Rucker Sr. WR

24. Marcello Phillips Sr. TE

25. Jaylen Smith Sr. WR

26. Kahlil Jackson So. TE/LB

27. Marquis Ross So. RB/LB

28. Stacy Hopkins So. LB

29. Montavus Malone Sr. DB

30. Zyrion Harrison So. DB

31. Mori Young So. RB/DB

32. Jackson Aiken Sr. DL

33. Aveion Young So. DB

34. Cam Goss Jr. DB

35. Zander Lipscomb So. TE

36. Jalani Andrews So. DB

37. Deandre Pacheco So. DB

38. Jeremiah Watts So. DB

39. Zaishun Ramsey Jr. WR

40. Jerald Bryant So. WR

41. Adarian Cheek So. LB

42. Cody Brewer Jr. LB

43. Keyvon Carter Sr. DB

44. Akeveyahn Jones So. DB

45. Tayler Phanyoraj Jr. LB

46. Keymonta Clark Jr. DB

47. Wesley Perez Sr. DB

48. Zarion Harvey Fr. RB

49. Christian Smith So. RB

50. Keith Motes Jr. LB

51. Daniel Flores Jr. OL

52. Kevin Garcia So. OL

53. Kevin Gosa Jr. OL

54. Keyvion Harrison So. OL

55. Ced Nicely Sr. OL

56. Elijah Ruiz Jr. OL

57. Dorean Whitehead Sr. OL

58. Christian Green Fr. DL

59. Eric Guerra So. LB/P/K

60. Carter Loyd Fr. DE

61. Javier Ibanez So. OL

62. Lemuel Gayle Sr. DL

63. Braylon Randolph So. OL

64. Lacorey Hutchinson So. OL

65. KJ Merritt Fr. DL

66. Carrol Brown Jr. OL

67. Kane Blanchard Fr. OL

68. Alex Garcia Fr. OL

69. Ethan McCusker So. OL

70. Noe Covarrubias Fr. DE

71. Kamari Hudson Fr. DL

72. Jorge Burciaga Fr. OL

73. Edgar Ortega So. OL

74. Tray Childers Sr. DL

76. Tanner Valentine Jr. OL

77. Sahmir King Jr. OL

78. Ignacio Olvera Sr. OL/DL

79. Angel Garza Jr. DL

80. Zarius Burch So. WR

81. Octavian Demory Fr. DE

82. Ramone Aragon Fr. WR

83. Tae Young So. DB

84. Keshon Wright Fr. WR

85. Cesar Villalbos Fr. DB

86. Jeremy Aponte Montalvo Fr. WR

87. Conner Perry So. DB

88. Ethan Reeves Sr. TE/DE

90. Giovanni Martinez Jr. K/P

91. Ronald Penado Sr. K/P

92. TJ Putman Jr. DL

94. Jarrious Harris So. DE

95. Jimmy Mai Sr. K/P

96. Alfredo Ruiz Jr. K/P

97. Jean Richmond Jr. DL

98. Khaliq Maddox Jr. DL

99. Malique Stringer Sr. DL

Schedule

September 4                     at Stockbridge 7:30 p.m.

September 18                   at Flowery Branch 7:30 p.m.

September 25                  DISCOVERY 7:30 p.m.

October 2                         at Forsyth Central 7:30 p.m.

October 9                         HILLGROVE 7:30 p.m.

October 16                       LAMBERT 7:30 p.m.

October 30                      at South Forsyth 7:30 p.m.

November 6                   WEST FORSYTH 7:30 p.m.

November 13                  at Denmark 7:30 p.m.

November 20                 NORTH FORSYTH 7:30 p.m.


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