GAINESVILLE — Gainesville coach Keith Hall wanted a statement.
Friday he got it.
Hall and the Leopards stormed in to District 9-3A play with a furry, beating preseason favorite Decatur 42-21 at Leopard Stadium.
“We talked about coming into the game and making a statement,” Hall said. “We wanted to come in and show that we are here to play. I believe we did that tonight.”
The Leopards (7-0, 1-0) rattled off 36 unanswered points starting early in the second quarter and cruised to victory from there while getting some work in for the backups and younger players.
Gainesville running back Adam Berryman led the Leopards with 173 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The junior had touchdown runs of 83, 2 and 5 yards in the win.
“Coach (Jacob) Hines wanted to run the veer (option) this week,” Hall said. “We kept running the 36 veer with (Adam) and were able to bust a few.”
The Leopards got touchdowns from four different players as Berryman, David Moore, Johnathan Mendez and Chris White all found pay dirt in the game.
Moore’s touchdown came on a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Denzel Johnson on a slant route with 6:29 left in the first half to make it 21-0 at the time. Moore would catch four passes for 55 yards on the night as the Leopards’ leading receiver.
“We finally were able to see David (Moore) look healthy again,” said Hall of his senior who has been battling leg injuries throughout the season.
Johnson was 7 of 11 passing for 113 yards on the game. He also added five carries for 20 yards on the ground.
Gainesville kicker Hector Sagrero nailed a 31-yard field goal with 38 seconds left in the first half to push the Leopard lead to 24-0 at halftime.
The Leopards kept the pedal to the metal coming out of halftime with touchdowns on consecutive possessions.
The first Gainesville score after intermission came on a 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chris White on a play action bootleg to push the lead to 30-0.
Berryman would add the second Leopard touchdown of the third quarter and his third score of the game on a 5-yard run a little more than seven minutes into the second half to go up 36-0.
“We wanted to keep the intensity up after halftime,” Hall said. “That was a big focus for us. We were able to do that and it allowed us to do some different things at the end.”
Berryman’s third quarter touchdown was set up by a David Moore interception – one of two picks by the Leopards on the night. Mendez had the first interception, which led to Moore’s touchdown catch midway through the second quarter.
Decatur quarterback Grayson Muehlstein accounted for all three of the Eagles’ (3-4, 0-1) touchdowns. The junior was 13 of 18 passing for 191 yards while rushing 19 times for 90 more yards. Following a third quarter interception, Muehlstein completed 11 consecutive passes to end the game.
Facing mostly second team Gainesville defense, Muehlstein was able to carve up the Leopard secondary setting up touchdown runs of 1 and 7 yards as well as a 9-yard touchdown pass to Ben Blattner.
The Leopards received a good bounce on a surprise onside kick attempt during their run of 36 unanswered points. Sagrero placed the onside kick just out of the reach of the Eagles’ furthest kickoff return front man, allowing Jacob Royal to swoop in for the recover. The onside kick recovery led to Berryman’s second touchdown, a 2-yard run that made it 14-0.
“We look to do that (onside kick) every time,” Hall said. “It all depends on how they line up.”
Berryman’s first touchdown of the game was that of the 83-yard variety a play after the Leopards forced a turnover on downs at the Decatur 17. The speedy junior found a crease in the Decatur defense and zipped past Eagle defenders.
Gainesville will travel to play Sanger at 7:30 p.m. next Friday.
“We are taking things one game at a time,” Hall said. “I haven’t even looked at film of Sanger yet. Our job tonight was to beat Decatur – now we move on to Sanger. They are having a bit of a down year so far but we can’t afford to over look them – I know we won’t.
“I’m happy to be 7-0 now. I’m just so proud of the kids.”
Gainesville 42, Decatur 21
Decatur 0 0 7 14 – 21
Gainesville 0 24 12 6 – 42
GHS – Adam Berryman 83 run (Hector Sagrero kick), 11:35
GHS – Berryman 2 run (Sagrero kick), 10:35
GHS – David Moore 14 pass from Denzel Johnson (Sagrero kick), 6:25
GHS – Sagrero 31 field goal, :38
GHS – Chris White 20 pass from Johnson (kick failed), 7:51
GHS – Berryman 5 run (kick failed), 4:45
DHS – Grayson Muehlstein 7 run (Clark Allen kick), :07
DHS – Ben Blattner 9 pass from Muehlstein (Allen kick), 7:17
GHS – Johnathan Mendez 16 run (run failed), 4:45
DHS – Muehlstein 1 run (Allen kick), 2:24
First downs 16 18
Total yards 312 372
Rushing 32-121 36-259
Passing 191 113
C-A-I 13-18-2 7-11-0
Pen-Yards 4-35 4-25
Fum-L 0-0 0-0
Rushing – Decatur, Grayson Muehlstein 19-90; Levi Rust 9-22; Hunter Aragon 3-9; Jared Durdon 1-0. Gainesville, Adam Berryman 17-173; Johnathan Mendez 5-46; Danny Nipp 8-20; Denzel Johnson 5-20.
Passing – Decatur, Muehlstein 13-18-2-191. Gainesville, Johnson 7-11-0-113.
Receiving – Decatur, Cain Lowe 5-98; Cameron Harrison 4-55; Ben Blattner 2-21; Durdon 1-15; Rust 1-3.