Gatewood Middle School Football By Brandon Bush

Gatewood’s middle school football team ran into trouble on Thursday night. The Gators were defeated by rivals John Milledge Academy in Milledgeville by a score of 20-8, giving the Gators their first loss of the season. Officiating wasn’t kind to Gatewood as several obvious penalties were not called against the Trojans, while the Gators were hit with many of the same penalties that JMA didn’t get called for. JMA started at the 35 yard line and began to move the ball quickly. After a few long runs, the Gatewood defense was able to get a good stop on the Trojans, but a late hit penalty gave the Trojans the field position they needed to score the first touchdown of the night. Gatewood defended JMA’s 2-point conversion before beginning their first offensive drive. The Gator offense struggled to score and soon had to punt after a three-and-out. “We didn’t play well in the first half,” Gatewood middle school coach Robert Bush said. “Regardless of penalties, we made a lot of mistakes.” Back on defense, the Gators began to find a rhythm as the Trojans could not convert a first down. Gatewood’s LJ Heron delivered a huge sack which completely stalled JMA’s drive. As the second quarter began, Landon Wilson took JMA’s punt all the way to the end zone for what would be a touchdown, but a personal foul for roughing the kicker brought the Gators back to the 35 to start their drive there. Penalties kept being a problem for Gatewood, as a good run from quarterback Blake Haley was called back for holding. After punting to the Trojans again, the Gators came up with another defensive stop as Austin Johnson and Cole Hudson recorded a sack together. Gatewood’s offense began to show signs of life as the first half drew to a close, with Haley escaping tackles to complete a pass before the Gator offense ran a flea-flicker to get to the 38 yard line before time expired. The Gators received the kickoff at the beginning of the second half, and Wilson was able to return the ball to near midfield. A facemask penalty on JMA along with several hard runs from Johnson put the Gators in scoring position at the 25, and Hudson gave Gatewood its only touchdown and 2-point conversion, as well as their only lead of the game. The Trojans responded with a long run to the 33-yard line as the third quarter drew to a close before a long pass for a touchdown put JMA ahead 12-8. The Trojans again failed on the 2-point conversion, but now had a 4-point lead in the final quarter. Johnson earned a Gators first down in two plays on the next Gatewood possessions, but the Gators ended up turning the ball over to JMA. Gatewood’s defense was able to step up for another huge stop, with Heron and Cole Hudson recording a tackle as well as Wilson nearly grabbing an interception, and Cam Huskins and Case McMichael also recording tackles for loss. An overthrown fourth down pass turned the ball back over to the Gators. Gatewood was in a position to set up a potentially game-winning drive when they recovered the ball on the 34. However, Gatewood lost a fumble, and the Trojans found themselves back on offense with time dwindling. Gatewood once again had opportunities for big plays taken from them by penalties when a fourth down pass was broken up by Hudson, only for the Gators to be hit with a flag for roughing the passer, giving JMA another first down. With only 1:15 left on the clock, the Trojans scored their third and final touchdown, this time also scoring the 2-point conversion. A long pass on Gatewood’s final drive was intercepted near mid-field, and the Trojans knelt to burn away the final seconds of the game. “We didn’t play like I know we’re capable of playing,” Bush said. “We have to play them again, so we have to be better prepared.” Gatewood will have its chance to get even with their rivals across the lake when JMA visits the Swamp for the regular season finale. Until then, the middle school Gators will prepare to face A.C.E. in Macon on Thursday.

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