Gatewood took a trip to Milledgeville Friday for one last tune-up before the regular season.
The Gators completed their final scrimmage game of the year when they visited Georgia Military College Prep. Although the scrimmage was very loosely organized, the Gators would have won 21-14 if the score was being kept.
“The good thing is we got a chance to play against somebody else,” Gatewood coach Jeff Ratliff said. “When we divide up, we can’t necessarily simulate other teams. It’s close, but not exactly the same.”
A quick but heavy storm hit Milledgeville hours before the game, disabling GMC’s scoreboard and delaying the starting time by half an hour. Fortunately for everyone, the storm passed and the Gators were able to get on the field.
Like many other scrimmage games, the match with GMC was in an unconventional format compared to an actual game. Each team took turns running 10 offensive plays in a row, going back and forth with each other until time ran out in the quarter. Four-down drives were still enforced but, regardless whether a team scored a touchdown or failed to convert on fourth down, all 10 offensive plays had to be played out by the team on offense.
The scrimmage was confusing for both the Gators and the Bulldogs at times. The game clock, down and distances and other aspects of the game had to be kept on-field by officials due to the disabled scoreboard, preventing coaches from making optimal decisions.
Nevertheless, it was Gatewood’s final preseason showing against a live opponent before the games start to count.
Although some weak spots were still present, a lot of good things came out of the scrimmage as well.
“We still have a lot to work on,” Ratliff said. “But most of what we saw [Friday] is correctable. If we’re playing our best ball in August, that might be a problem. We want to be playing our best ball by November.”
The game was initially a stalemate for most of the first half as Gatewood was able to get some big plays off but still not finding the end zone. Unlike GMC, which kept its starters in for the majority of the game, Gatewood gave its second- and third-string players plenty of reps, allowing the Bulldogs to take advantage at times.
Because the scrimmage was not being run like a conventional game, several abnormal calls were made throughout the night.
One of the strangest calls of the night occurred when GMC threw a long pass that was intercepted by receiver/defensive back Connor Olson near the 30-yard line. But because GMC still had plays remaining in its 10-play drive, the officials gave the ball back to GMC at the spot of the interception, which allowed the Bulldogs to throw a touchdown pass the very next play just before the half ended.
The second half of the scrimmage fared much better for the Gators.
Sophomore quarterback Luke Haley had a big day in his live debut. He torched the Bulldog defense on several long runs, including coming back from a firstand-25 situation from a personal foul call to rip out a long touchdown run on a keeper.
The Gators’ running game picked up in the second half as well. Walt Jarrett broke out a few long runs alongside Haley and eventually punched in a touchdown. John Decker also used his legs to add some long breakaways, and Nash Sinclair carried the rock 25 yards to the end zone for a third Gator touchdown.
On defense, James Williamson recovered a first-quarter fumble on GMC’s opening possession. Reed Haley recorded a sack and T.J. McElhenney had a tackle in the backfield to stall the Bulldogs’ first offensive attempt. Weston Wallace also picked up a number of backfield tackles.
When not playing quarterback, Haley was a defensive back for the Gators and, in addition to his long touchdown run, grabbed an interception for a long return.
“It was good to see another team and for our guys to play with each other,” Ratliff said. “The offensive line needs to jell, and we have a new quarterback who needs to learn to play with our running backs in the option offense. Playing as a unit is important and it was good to do so against a real opponent.”
With their final preseason outing completed, the Gators will now prepare for their first game of the season: hosting arch enemy John Milledge Academy on Aug. 24 in The Swamp.