EATONTON — Friday’s GISA AA state championship game rematch between the Gatewood Gators and Terrell Academy Eagles played out basically the same way as the 2018 title contest.
The Gators (5-2) took that game 51-17 to win state and they reasserted their dominance on their home field Friday with a commanding 60-21 victory. Gatewood’s triple-option offense was clicking as it produced 46 points and over 400 yards of offense in the first half alone. The Eagle offense, meanwhile, found itself bogged down, which is exceptionally fitting since the Gatewood faithful refer to their team’s home field as The Swamp.
Terrell’s returning players from last year probably still have nightmares of Gator quarterback Luke Haley weaving his way through their defense for over 300 yards rushing in the 2018 state championship game at Mercer. The Eagles were treated to another smaller helping of that Friday as Haley gashed them on a couple of occasions, including a 62-yard scoring scamper late in the first half. Terrell did a slightly better job hemming up the junior Gator QB this time around, but that was fine with him as its his job to share the football with seniors Walt Jarrett and John Decker. Decker had scoring runs of 32 and 37 yards at fullback while Jarrett handled his pitchback duties deftly with touchdowns of 48, 76, and 71 yards on the night. That’s why it’s called the triple option.
“We executed our option about as well as we could tonight,” Gatewood head coach and offensive playcaller Jeff Ratliff said after the win. “We hit all levels of it. I thought we finished blocks, and I thought Luke did a great job of reading it. Going into Westwood last week we had not really gotten our option game going, so we challenged the guys to get better at it and we did that tonight.”
The Gator defense was doing its job as well. Terrell only had 10 yards of offense and had committed a pair of turnovers until hitting a big play late in the first quarter. The Eagles would go on to finish off that drive with a 43-yard touchdown screen pass that had the Gatewood coaching staff calling for a flag for an illegal pick. Their pleas went unanswered though as the Eagles got themselves on the scoreboard though still well behind at 30-7. That stood as the game’s closest margin for the remainder of the night as the Gators kept right on scoring.
Gatewood junior kicker Jayson Burner knocked through a pair of field goals (32 and 30 yards), and senior defensive back Connor Olson had an interception as well as a pass breakup to round out the Gators’ winning performance.
The Gators are off next week, which comes as a welcomed sight for coaches and players alike since their regular season began a couple weeks prior to most GISA teams. They’ll return to competition Oct. 18 and travel to Southwest Georgia Academy.
“The open week’s going to be good for us because we’ve got to clean up some stuff,” Ratliff said. “I feel good with where we’re at, but we’ve got a little work to do if we want to get back to Mercer.”