By Brandon Bush

Gatewood Academy’s football program began the 2017 season with domination. The Gators hosted Brentwood in the new-and-improved “Swamp” and completely routed the Eagles in a 34-0 performance. “It starts with our seniors,” Gator head coach Jeff Ratliff said. “They’ve been in our program and working together for a long time, and they’ve brought our team together with their leadership and guidance. They played well, thus the team played well.” The Gators found most of their success in the legs of senior quarterback Reid Sasser, who broke out a strong run in the first play of the game for a first down. Another hard run from running back Yale Stapp put the Gators in a position for Brandon Belans to score Gatewood’s first points. The Eagles began to put a solid drive together in their first chance on offense, but a fumble recovered by Cody Kauffman gave the ball back to Gatewood. The Gator defense again held Brentwood back with Stapp delivering big hits and a sack from Jake McMillian and Weston Wallace to end the first quarter. Brentwood showed signs of life in the second quarter, putting together a strong drive before the Gator defense ended the drive, with a third down pass being swatted down by TJ McElhenney. Gatewood’s next offensive drive suffered from both a holding and an offsides penalty, but Sasser was able to erase the deficit and break out a long run to about the 47. Although Gatewood was given yet another holding penalty, it was again erased by another run from Belans to set up Sasser scoring the Gators’ second touchdown. Gatewood then held the Eagles to a three-and-out to allow Sasser to rip off another hard run, breaking several tackles on his way to the end zone for another Gator touchdown. As the first half ended, Brentwood’s only chance at scoring failed as they missed a field goal, leaving Gatewood with a 20-0 lead. “Their quarterback is a pretty good athlete,” Ratliff said. “But we stayed after him pretty well. We gave up a few plays, but nothing back-breaking.” Gatewood didn’t let up in the second half, holding Brentwood to another three-and-out on their first drive of the second half. However, the Eagles began to fight back as Gatewood lost a fumble in the red zone. Another three-and-out gave the Gators another chance to score, with receiver Will Dutton catching a short pass to set up another running touchdown from Sasser, again breaking through several Eagle defenders to expand their lead. Stapp gave the Gators several hard runs at the beginning of the fourth quarter before Belans was able to turn out another long run, which was soon followed by Gatewood’s final score of the night. The defense successfully prevented Brentwood from having any shot at scoring as the minutes burned away, leaving Gatewood with a 34-0 victory to begin its season. “We were expecting a 4-3 defense, but they gave us a 3-5. We weren’t ready to make a lot of adjustments this early in the season,” Ratliff said. “But we did the best we could and still had 20 points at halftime. We made some adjustments in the second half and went from there. Brentwood is a good program.” The Gators look to improve upon their 1-0 record this week when Monsignor Donovan Catholic High School comes to Eatonton. “We’re going to break the film down and fix our mistakes, and as long as they aren’t lack-of-hustle mistakes we can correct them.” Ratliff said. “That’s one thing we preach, and I thought the hustle was good tonight.” 

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