Gatewood football By Jake McMillian

The Gatewood Gators traveled to Martinez last week to battle the Augusta Prep Cavaliers. The Cavs, like the Gators, entered the contest with an unblemished record and were unofficially ranked the fifth-best team in the state. Augusta Prep defeated Gatewood at its homecoming game last season, so there was plenty of motivation for the Gators going into this game. A victory ensured an all-important advancement in Region 4-AAA, and the Gators secured that Friday night by defeating the Cavaliers 34-8. For just the second time this season, the Gators lost the opening coin toss, and Augusta Prep elected to receive. The defense's performance on the opening drive would set an important precedent for the game, for the Cavs rushed for over 400 yards last season at Sammons Field. This year’s defensive unit did not disappoint; the Cavs came out firing, attempting three straight passes deep downfield. However, all three attempts came up empty, and Augusta Prep was forced to punt. The Gatewood offense initiated a methodical drive that advanced inside the 10-yard line. The Cavs' defense held strong for three downs, due in large part to the use of a 12th player on first down. Gatewood’s Reid Sasser broke through enemy lines on fourth down. Kicker Logan Bowden drilled the extra point, giving the Gators a 7-0 lead. The Gator faithful experienced quite a scare on the following drive for Augusta Prep. On the first play of the possession, the Cavaliers' tailback bursted down the right sideline with a convoy of blockers, breaking through tackles en route to what appeared to be a momentum-shifting touchdown. However, a yellow flag lay on the turf, for a Prep receiver blocked senior Drew Haley in the back. The touchdown was eliminated, and the rejuvenated defenders halted their opponents. Gatewood nearly replicated its first offensive drive, advancing inside the 5-yard line. Augusta Prep performed an impressive goal line stand, forcing a turnover on downs at the 1-yard line. The Gator defense nearly scored for the fifth consecutive week. Augusta Prep's tailback was swallowed up by a host of Gators behind the goal line for an obvious safety, but, much to the chagrin of the Gatewood fans, his progress was moved to the 1-inch line. The Gators' misfortune nearly proved costly, for on the next play the tailback was nearly stopped for a safety again when an errant blow freed him from his tacklers. Breaking free, a miraculous 100-yard score seemed imminent until he was tracked down by Reid Sasser at midfield. The defense regained its composure and stifled the offense's advance, initiating a turnover on downs to regain the advantage. The Gators could not score as the clock wound to zero after narrowly missing a heave to the end zone. The score remained at 7-0 in favor of Gatewood, with an unpredictable second half in store. Gatewood wasted no time extending its lead in the second half. A ferocious offensive line and the punishing legs of Yale Stapp pummeled the Cavalier defense. Gatewood ran the triple option eight consecutive times, and Stapp's number was called on each occasion. A 15-yard facemask penalty and a relief from action provided by Brandon Belans set the Gators up near the goal line once again. The reoccurring battleground of the night presented itself yet again, but Stapp bulldozed his way into the end zone, giving the visiting team a two-touchdown lead. Another stop by the Gatewood defense handed the ball back to the Gators' rushing attack. Reid Sasser blew the game wide open with a 44-yard touchdown run. However, the Gators fumbled the extra-point snap, and kicker Logan Bowden nearly completed a desperation pass to Reid Haley in the end zone, but the attempt failed. The Gators' lead stretched to 20-0 with 5:37 left in the third quarter. The scoring onslaught struck again on the first play of the fourth quarter. An out-and-up route by Sean Dugan fooled his defender, who tripped in a failed attempt to regain ground. Dugan hauled in the easy touchdown pass, and the 30-yard strike put the game out of reach by a 27-0 score. Augusta Prep capitalized on a fumble recovery and broke the shutout with the clock winding down. A successful 2-point conversion shortened the lead to 27-8. Gatewood would have the final say. With just under five minutes remaining, Brandon Belans avenged his defense with a 19-yard scamper, increasing the Gator advantage to its final score, 34-8. Gatewood outgained its opponent, and blossoming rival, 394-203. Augusta Prep was held to 136 yards rushing. The Gators will take a break from region-play by traveling to Toombs County Friday to battle the Robert Toombs Christian Academy Crusaders. Toe meets leather at 7:30 p.m.

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