Gators rush for 514 yards in victory
The Gatewood Gators ran out to a 40-16 victory last Friday against Trinity Christian, following a less than stellar performance on opening night in a 10-0 win over Edmund Burke a week ago.
Working hard to correct the imbalance and miscues from week one, Gatewood looked like a completely different team at Trinity, running around, over and through the Crusader defense enroute to a team high 514 yards rushing on 61 carries, complete with six touchdowns in the process.
Junior tailback Justin Jameson rumbled for 280 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns. Meanwhile senior quarterback Landon Wilson, playing only the second game of his career under center, took the reins of the read option offense after the shaky season opener and gashed Trinity for 159 yards on 26 carries and three touchdowns. Freshman Caleb Riser was quick and explosive in getting to the second tier of the Trinity defense, running for 69 yards on only six carries.
Most impressive was the transformation from week one to Friday, causing head coach Jeff Ratliff to describe the output of Wilson, Jameson and Riser as a “three headed monster”.
“We corrected a few things and got in the right mindset and it looked a little better,” said Ratliff. “After that first week, the offense figured out what needed to be done to get better. We had a three headed monster. Justin hit the seams and as big, strong and fast as he is, he was an absolute horse.”
Gatewood took the opening kickoff and promptly drove 63 yards in nine plays, capped off by a seven-yard Jameson blast for the score. Back came Trinity Christian, driving 68 yards in 10 plays to pull within one point at 7-6. The extra point hit the upright and bounced out, but that was not the key play.
The Crusaders found an open receiver for a 40-yard completion on a scramble. On the next play, Gator Blake Haley came up with an interception to stop the drive but off-setting penalties gave Trinity the ball back. Four plays later, the Crusaders found pay dirt on a 23-yard quarterback run.
On the ensuing kickoff, penalties thwarted any positive momentum for Gatewood and with 1:15 showing in the first stanza. Jameson coughed up the ball and Trinity recovered. On the night, the Gators were flagged 11 times for 100 yards.
Another Gator fumble with 10:10 before intermission gave the Crusaders the ball at the Gatewood 22-yard line. Four plays later, Trinity took a 9-7 edge on a 34-yard field goal.
The Crusader kickoff pinned Gatewood back at their own 11-yard marker. The running game found fourth gear and drove down the field before Cole Hudson blasted in from four yards out for a 14-9 Gator lead with 4:31 left before halftime.
The stout Gator defense held and Gatewood took advantage, pushing out to a 20-9 advantage with 1:57 left in the half and that would prove to be enough in the win.
Gatewood led 27-9 to start the final period and added 13 more points for the 40-16 win. The relentless and fast Gator defense made the difference in this game. The Crusaders mustered 119 total yards in the contest with only 23 coming on the ground. The Gators harassed the Trinity offensive line, pounding away for 13 tackles for losses in the win.
“We put them in a bad position a couple of times,” said Ratliff. “Their quarterback was fast and elusive and can make you miss. I don’t think we did a bad job covering but when a guy is running around, someone is going to get open eventually and that was what was happening.”
Senior captain Garric Embry led the defensive charge, making five solo tackles and notching two sacks.
“We got it rolling. We realized we had to play as a team and that is what we did,” said Embry. “That is the game of football. We are really going to have to buckle down in practice. We are going to need to be really prepared next week against Terrell.”
Offensively, Gatewood seemed to find their way much better than week one but Wilson was quick to point out the need for much more work ahead for the defending state champions.
“We had a tough win opening night but we bounced back,” he said. “We put the work in during practice and we got better. We still have a lot of work to do. We have to keep our heads right and keep working. We had some plays they couldn’t stop and ran it at them because they never could stop us. We are getting better each week.”
Jameson said moving forward the key will be about the team.
“It was a good team win and we’ll be working hard this week to get ready for Terrell,” he said. “We will be ready. Our line did a great job of opening up the holes.”
The Gators will be back in action Friday for ‘Gold Out Night’ at The Swamp in support of childhood cancer awareness. Terrell Academy will come to town ranked number one in GISA AA football with Gatewood holding the third place ranking in the early season.
“Terrell comes in flying high and undefeated,” said Ratliff. “They are 2-0 with victories over Southland and Pataula Charter. Terrell is well coached and has some talented athletes.
“Coach Bill Murdock is in his 33rd year overall and 17th with Terrell. He always does a great job with his team, and this year’s team is very good. Their quarterback runs their offense extremely well, and he has plenty of talent around him to make it go. Their line of scrimmage is big. On defense, Terrell is fast and they do a good job of running to the football.
“Terrell will be a playoff team. I fully expect them to be one of the top teams in the league when the playoffs roll around in November, and they will be a tough out. It is important that we play our best football game to date.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.