can no longer be called the best football program in Georgia that's never won a state championship.
The Red Elephants have been playing football for more than 100 years and have won more than 700 games, but had never brought home the state title.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson
threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more scores as Gainesville overwhelmed Ware County 49-13 in the state's Class AAAAA championship game on Friday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The Red Elephants (12-3) were making their seventh appearance in the final, the most of any team that had never won a title.
"I don't know that you can describe it," Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. "There's been a lot of frustrations getting here, but we got here and our guys did the job. Our team and our coaches just did a great job of getting our guys ready to play."
It was a record-setting night for Watson, Gainesville's junior quarterback who has committed to Clemson. He came into the game needing 17 yards to break the state record for career passing yardage, and he got them on his third attempt with a 10-yard pass to Tray Harrison
. It was part of an 8-for-8 effort on the Red Elephants' opening drive that was capped by a 17-yard pass to Caleb Hayman
for a 7-0 lead less than six minutes into the game.
For the game, Watson was unofficially 27-of-36 passing for 317 yards and had 13 rushes for 85 yards, increasing his season totals to 4,024 yards passing and 1,441 rushing. He became the third quarterback in state history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a season – behind Hutson Mason (4,560 for Lassiter in 2009) and Taylor Heinicke (4,218 for Collins Hill in 2010) – and the second to throw 50 TD passes in a season, trailing only Mason with 54 in 2009. He broke the record for career touchdown passes in the semifinals last week and will enter his senior season with 108 touchdowns and 9,363 yards passing.
Gainesville, ranked 14th overall in the state and No 1 in Class AAAAA by MaxPreps, got a 4-yard run by Watson, a 38-yard fumble return by
and a 5-yard pass to Rodney Lackey
to make it 28-0 with 2:33 to play in the first half. It was all but over at that point. Payne also set up a third-quarter touchdown with a 69-yard interception return to the Ware County 2.
"It was a tremendous job by our guys on both sides of the ball," Miller said. "Offensively, defensively, our kicking game, they were all sound. It was maybe the most complete game we've played all year. I'm so happy for our kids and just proud for our community."Xavier Tobler
, the Region 3-AAAAA co-player of the year who has committed to Georgia Southern, scored both touchdowns for Ware County (13-2) on 2-yard runs.
"How can you not be proud when you go 13-2 and make it to the state championship game," Ware coach Ed Dudley said. "I didn't think we'd come up here and implode like we did, but it just shows that you have to work hard every day and come to play your best every Friday night." Class AAA: Buford 10, St. Pius 3Dontravious Wilson
scored on a 39-yard run on a fourth-and-2 play with 9:10 remaining in the game to lead top-ranked Buford
to a 10-3 victory over St. Pius in the Georgia Class AAA championship game Friday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
The state title was Buford's eighth in 12 years and ninth in school history.
Wilson, who has committed to Western Kentucky, had all but two of his 69 yards rushing in the second half.
St. Pius, ranked No. 2 in Class AAA, had the ball inside Buford territory twice in the final five minutes but got no closer than the 33-yard line. St. Pius quarterback Jack Spear was sacked four times in the final two drives.
Matthew Bonadies gave Buford (12-3) a 3-0 lead with a 43-yard field goal with four seconds to play in the first half. St. Pius' Thomas O'Leary tied the score with a season-best 47-yarder with 4:38 remaining in the third quarter.
St. Pius (12-3) was playing in its first state final since 1968, when it won its only championship.Class A (private schools): Eagle's Landing Christian Academy 33, Prince Avenue Christian School 0
Senior Keyante Green
rushed for 84 yards and two touchdowns to lead Eagle's Landing Christian Academy (McDonough)
to a 33-0 victory over Prince Avenue Christian School in the Georgia Class A private school final Friday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Green, who has committed to Purdue, gave ELCA the lead with a 23-yard touchdown run on its first drive of the game, but the Chargers didn't pull away until the third quarter when they scored touchdowns on all three of their possessions. D.J. Curl
scored on a 23-yard run on the second play of the second half, and Brad Moore
and Green added third-quarter TD runs.
Quarterback Dalton Etheridge
was 7-of-8 passing for 107 yards and had a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
The victory gave top-ranked ELCA (13-1) its first state championship since joining the Georgia High School Association in 2004.
Fourth-ranked Prince Avenue (11-3), which came into the game averaging 326 yards rushing, was limited to 102 total yards. Carl Mattox, who finished the season with 1,698 yards rushing, led the Wolverines with 54 yards on 10 carries.