Then a different Gainesville team showed up after the break.
The Red Elephants dominated the Longhorns on both sides of the ball in the second half of Friday’s second round matchup of the Class AAAAA state playoffs and secured a 61-42 victory at Cobb Energy/Corky Kell Stadium.
Gainesville marches on to the state quarterfinals and will play at Harris County. Kell ends its season with a 10-2 record after winning the Region 7AAAAA title.
Kell quarterback Matthew McGuigan played the first half of his life with 265 yards passing and five touchdown passes. Then the Red Elephants came out blitzing in the second half and the Longhorns struggled to pick it up.
“What a complete second half,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. “It was almost like a different team showed up in the second half. We got the momentum rolling and (Kell) couldn’t get it back from us.”
That helped Gainesville’s offense get shorter fields and Clemson-bound quarterback Deshaun Watson started making plays after the Longhorns contained him in the first. With Watson’s help, Gainesville scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter to reclaim the lead.
Watson finished the game with five rushing touchdowns with four coming in the second half.
“(Gainesville is) a talented football team,” Kell coach Derek Cook said. “They are hard to contain defensively. I’m proud of the way our guys finished the game and finished the season the way they did as region champions. We represented the region the best we could and as long as we could.”
Even though Kell had minus-4 yards in the third quarter due to Gainesville’s pressure defense, the Longhorns didn’t go away. McGuigan connected to Langley for the fifth time, a 59-yard touchdown to tie the game at 42-all.
Gainesville scored to take the lead on its next drive but Langley blocked the extra point, putting the Longhorns in position to take the lead on their next drive.
But Gainesville kept the defensive pressure on the front line when Kell got the ball and it finally paid off when the Longhorns were on their own 45-yard line on third-and-3.
McGuigan had three Gainesville defenders swarming him only seconds after snapping the ball, forcing him to throw the ball high and T.K. Mize was there for the 50-yard interception return.
McGuigan would throw another interception on the first play of Kell’s ensuing drive, putting Gainesville on the Kell 12, and Watson dashed in from four yards out two plays later.
“Obviously Matt’s got to shoulder some of that by the way the game ended with two interceptions,” Cook said of McGuigan, who finished the game with 333 yards. “What needs to be remembered that we put 40-something points on the board and a lot of it was behind his arm.”
Georgia-bound Langley capped his Kell career with 167 receiving yards and five scores. Michael Valero had 74 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Julian Burris added 45 more and it was his 34-yard catch in the end zone with 40 second left in the first half that gave Kell momentum going into the break.