By DARIN ALLRED
Register Sports Editor
Last year, the Gainesville Leopards had several close games that were decided by less than 10 points. They lost all of those close games and finished the season 2-8.
A play here or a play there and they could have been 5-5 or even 6-4.
This past Friday, the Leopards jumped on top of Carrollton Ranchview 17-0 early and held on to win 24-20 to start the season 1-0.
Gainesville head coach Ricky Lock was pleased with the way his team played against Ranchview and especially happy for his players.
“I thought it was very good for our school and our kids to get that opening victory,” he said. “We let one slip away a year ago and this time we closed the door on it and got the win.”
One area of concern is the fact that after jumping out to an early 17-point lead, the Leopards let Ranchview creep their way back into the game in the fourth quarter with 13-unanswered points. Gainesville had to recover an onside kick late in the game to preserve the win.
But Lock says what is most important is what happened in the end.
“They (Ranchview) scored to make it 17-7 and we answered to make it 24-7. We knew their big-play capabilities and there is always concern when they are making up points in the fourth quarter, but we held them at the end,” he said. “I am real proud of our kids. It was very important to get the win with so many players going both ways. We got in a little better condition that night and hopefully that will help us down the road.”
Gainesville had 303 yards rushing on the night as senior tailback Deshawn Franklin had 26 carries for 157 yards and junior quarterback Kielyn Lewis had 15 carries for 134 yards.
But the GHS coach says some other players also had good opening games.
“Scott Bransford on the offensive line graded out as the highest offensive lineman. He really stepped up Friday night and had a great game,” Lock said. “Patrick Westbrook did a really good job of blocking and played a ton of defense. On defense, we got 24 tackles out of our linebackers. Landon Lock had 13 tackles and Harold Wills had 11. We’re happy with their play and think they are progressing.”
Lock also praised the play of his young defensive line.
“Our defensive front played well,” he added. “We had some questions about them but all three of them played extremely well. Roderic Roland was a JV player when we started and he is the most improved player in our program. Merlin Davis had a real consistent game at nose guard and Calvin Calhoun played a very good game at defensive tackle. We are getting a few more questions answered every week. They key for us is just to stay healthy. Coming out of Friday, we had some bumps and bruises but there is no one that will miss the game.”
This week, the Leopards get a tougher test as they have to go on the road to face the Decatur Eagles, who lost to Dallas Madison 42-28 last week but feature a talented team with big linemen and good skill players.
“They (the Eagles) are very similar to a year ago,” Coach Lock said. “They are very big up front and have a good offensive scheme. They lost their quarterback. He is at Bowie now. But the young man they have playing quarterback right now did a good job the other night. They got a transfer running back in from Sanger, the (Tyler) Hodges kid, and he really runs hard. I was impressed with them. I know they lost but they played well. They were down 28-7 and came back to tie the game 28-28, but Madison won it in the fourth quarter.
“Overall, they are quick but not near as fast as Ranchview,” Lock added. “I think they are more fundamentally sound than Ranchview as far as blocking and tackling. It’s going to be a good test. Last year they had a ton of yards against us, but we had over 400 yards against them and scored 20 and we probably had three other chances to score. But it was not a close game.”
By DARIN ALLRED