Ware County falls in AAAAA title game

Published On: Dec 14 2012 11:49:25 PM EST
Updated On: Dec 15 2012 08:02:26 AM EST
Ware County Gators
ATLANTA -

The Ware County Gators' were overwhelmed by Gainesville High School's offense in Friday night's title game in the Georgia Dome.

Gainesville's record-setting junior quarterback Deshaun Watson accounted for five touchdowns and more than 400 yards to lead the Red Elephants to its first state title, 49-12 in the Class AAAAA championship game.

Watson threw three touchdown passes, two to Caleb Hayman, to raise his season total to 50, and his two touchdown runs gave him 24 for the season. He is the state career leader in touchdown throws (108) and passing yardage (4,031).

Watson completed 28 of 36 passes for 324 yards against Ware (13-2) and ran 14 times for 90 more yards as Gainesville (12-3) moved up and down the field at will.

Ware came into the game allowing just 8.6 points per game -- the best in Class AAAAA. But the Gators were no match for Watson and Gainesville.

Gainesville scored at least 40 points in all except one of its five playoff victories and went over 60 twice.

The Gators had made it to the title game once before, losing to Northside-Warner Robins in 2007. Waycross, which merged with Ware County in 1994, won four state titles, including a 49-0 victory over Gainesville in 1960.

The Red Elephants had made it to the title game six times previously, the most recent a 13-12 loss to Peach County in 2009. Their 18 previous trips to the semifinals was a record for a school without a GHSA state championship.

The Red Elephants set the tone on their first possession, going 78 yards on 10 plays as Watson -- 7-for-7 on the drive -- hit Hayman for a 17-yard score.

Watson ran it in from the 4 the next time Gainesville had the ball, and the Red Elephants, who had fumbled at the Ware 1-yard line late in the first quarter, made it a 21-0 lead early in the second when Fred Payne scooped up a fumble and ran 37 yards for a TD.

It soon became a four-touchdown advantage after Gainesville marched down the field following a missed 31-yard field goal by Ware and Watson connected with Rodney Lackey for a 5-yard TD. But the Gators made it 28-7 on Xavier Tobler's 2-yard run 44 seconds before halftime.

Watson completed 18 of 24 passes for 183 yards in the first half and carried seven times for 43 yards. Six of his passes were caught by Hayman.

After Gainesville fumbled away a scoring chance early in the third quarter, Payne picked off a Ware pass and ran 64 yards to set up Watson's 1-yard TD. Michael Byrd made it 42-7 on a 3-yard run midway in the quarter.

Watson's third TD pass, a 21-yarder to Hayman, came in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Ware scored on 3-yard run by Tabler after the game was long decided.

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