By Noah White, Robert Diaz and Alexander Vafeas
Gainesville High School cruised to a 49-21 football win Thursday over Santa Fe at Citizens Field to notch its first win of the season and end a 15-game losing streak.
Tight Game Early
Although Gainesville (1-4) would pull away from Santa Fe (0-5), the matchup appeared balanced between the two county foes.
After a short drive for each team that sputtered out, Gainesville got the ball back at its 43-yard line off a bad punt from Santa Fe and hit the ground running. Caleb Young Jr. broke away for a 34-yard run on the second play of the drive. Only seconds later, Gainesville running back Jaishawn Sanford rushed for a 6-yard touchdown, giving Gainesville an early 6-0 lead.
The Gainesville lead didn’t last long. Santa Fe began the subsequent drive at its own 12-yard line after a poor kickoff return. On the first play of its drive, quarterback Erik Hockman tossed a pass that was tipped by the Gainesville defense but caught by receiver Michael Cottrell, who ran for an 88-yard touchdown. The tip-drill touchdown gave Santa Fe a 7-6 lead following the point
EARLY PLAY OF THE GAME CANDIDATE.
#4 of Santa Fe Cottrell catches a topped pass and takes it the length of the field for the touchdown. pic.twitter.com/9Z11kEuBSC
— Alexander Vafeas (@AlexanderVafeas) September 21, 2023
Gainesville responded on its next drive. After a short run by quarterback Cade Smith and a penalty on the subsequent play, Sanford broke off a 42-yard rush to switch ends off the field. A few plays later, Smith threw to receiver Eli Williams for a 12-yard touchdown. Gainesville completed the two-point conversion for a 14-7 lead nearing the end of the first quarter.
Hurricanes’ Offensive Explosion
Santa Fe receiver Matthew Johnson caught a 70-yard touchdown pass to make the game 14-13 early in the second quarter.
Gainesville took off running from there.
On Gainesville’s first drive of the second quarter, it quickly began to move down the field. After a nine-play drive, Gainesville found itself with first-and-goal at the Santa Fe 7-yard line. At that time, star linebacker Caleb Young Jr. came into the game and rushed for the lead-expanding touchdown, making the score 21-13.
Santa Fe’s next drive sputtered and ended with a poor snap, giving the Hurricanes the ball at the Santa Fe 9-yard line.
Gainesville took advantage of the good field position, with Smith rushing for a 1-yard touchdown on fourth down. The Gainesville lead was 28-13 entering halftime.
As the third quarter opened, the Gainesville defense suffocated Santa Fe, forcing a three-and-out.
Gainesville got the ball back, and on the fourth play of its drive, Smith connected a second time with Williams for a touchdown, this time for 60 yards.
After another short Santa Fe drive, Gainesville scored again on a Smith screen pass to receiver Decari Debose. The 39-yard touchdown cemented Gainesville’s dominance with a 42-13 lead.
Closing Moments and Celebration
As the last few minutes of the game ticked away, the teams traded touchdowns, with Gainesville’s Zonray Rochelle rushing for a 17-yard score in the final seconds. As the clock ran out, Gainesville players doused coach Ian Scott with Gatorade. The 49-21 victory was his first as head coach of the Hurricanes.
Scott touched on this moment for his team:
“We’ve worked hard for this… we’re only going to build off it.”
He emphasized the practice time his team had put in to achieve this first win of the season. He said he believes his program will only improve beyond this victory, but he was happy for his players to get their first win of the season.
Quarterback Cade Smith, who passed for three touchdowns and rushed for a score, also focused on the momentum that comes with this win for the Gainesville team:
“We just got a taste of winning… we’ve just got to continue to work hard.”
Smith also wanted to credit the offensive line and skill group for Gainesville’s impressive scoring.
After a game that saw him both score on offense and single-handedly end multiple Santa Fe drives, two-way star Caleb Young Jr. had a chance to touch on how he sees his future, drawing comparisons to the players of a current college program:
Gainesville will face St. Augustine Melendez at home Friday for its homecoming game, looking to improve on its first win.