HAMILTON, Ga. -- Two years ago, Harris County's run in the state playoffs was ended by Gainesville. Friday night, the Tigers got a chance to avenge that setback.
It was not to be, however, as Gainesville duplicated its feat from the 2012 season, coming to Tiger Stadium and handing the hosts a 49-40 defeat.
With the loss, the Tigers' season comes to a close, finishing with a 9-3 record. Gainesville improved to 10-2 with the victory, and will head on the road next week to face Allatoona, which topped Coffee County 45-14 Friday night.
It marks the sixth time in seven years the Red Elephants have advanced to at least the quarterfinals and the ninth time they have won 10 or more games since 2002.
It's a run of success that has established Gainesville as one of the state's blueblood programs.
But afterward, Harris County coach Dwight Jones was not in the mood to say Gainesville is the type of program he's trying to turn his into.
"No, no, no," he said. "I'm trying to be the kind of program that Harris County is. That's what I'm trying to be. I ain't worried about Gainesville. I'm not worried about anybody else but Harris County. You go back and look at the last three years, we've won at least eight games. And I think they've won one state championship in the last 50 years. So I don't think they walk on water in Gainesville, Ga. I may be mistaken, but I don't think they do. We're just trying to play good, hard-nosed football."
The problems were two-fold for Harris County on Friday: One was itself, as it turned the ball over four times, split evenly between fumbles and interceptions.
The second was the potent pair of Gainesville quarterback Mikey Gonzalez and receiver Chris Williamson. The latter caught four touchdown passes, three from the
arm of Gonzalez. The senior signal-caller didn't do too badly himself, throwing five touchdown passes.
Not to be outdone, Harris County's own dynamic duo -- quarterback Taquon Marshall and running back Tae Crowder -- accounted for every Tiger touchdown. Crowder scored on runs of 22 and 20 yards and added a 52-yard touchdown reception from Marshall in the fourth quarter, which cut Gainesville's lead to 42-40 with 5:28 to play.
Gonzalez came through when the Red Elephants needed him, though. Facing third-and-11 at his own 39-yard line on the ensuing possession, he heaved a pass downfield in the direction of Rodney Lackey. The senior plucked it out of the air and ran down the sideline for the game's final score, and in the process, putting the finishing touches on Gainesville's victory.
That Harris got to within two points with five minutes to play was impressive, as it trailed from the outset, finding itself in a 7-0 hole just 22 seconds in. After Gainesville won the toss, it deferred to the second half. Marshall fumbled the ensuing kickoff, allowing the Red Elephants to take over 37 yards away from the end zone.
Two plays later, the visitors hit pay dirt, as Gonzalez hit Williamson on a 37-yard score. Chandler Staton's extra-point was good, giving the Red Elephants a 7-0 lead with 11:38 showing on the first quarter game clock.
Harris showed the kickoff miscue and Gainesville's quick strike didn't affect it, though, tying the game at 7-all on an explosive drive of its own. It took the Tigers just three plays to score, going 61 yards in 1:06. As he has all year, Crowder was the player to finish off the drive with a bang. Taking a handoff at the 22-yard line, he cut to his left and met a Gainesville defender head-on. But Crowder quickly flicked his foe away with a massive stiff arm, and from there, he wouldn't be stopped until crossing the goal line at the 10:23 mark. Matthew Crumbley's PAT was true, knotting the game at 7-7.
From there, the offensive fireworks continued, with the teams trading touchdowns back-and-forth, with Gainesville holding a 28-20 lead at the half.
The fact the game turned into a shootout didn't surprise Jones.
"We said that we'd have to score every time we had the football," he said. "We call it the blue zone. When we get within 25 yards, that's the 'blue zone' for us. That's heaven."
Though the result brought one of the most successful seasons in program history to a close, Jones was proud of how his team represented itself and the school.
Now, they have to continue doing that throughout the rest of the school year.
"We'll be judged how we handle adversity now when we come back to school Monday," he said. "In the hallways, our behavior and our character have to (shine). It's a great group of young men. They fought their guts out. We could have laid down and died, but we didn't do that."
Friday at Tiger Stadium
Gainesville 21 7 14 7--49
Harris County 14 6 7 13--40
GHS- Chris Williamson 37 pass from Mikey Gonzalez (Chandler Staton kick), 11:38
HC- Tae Crowder 22 run (Matthew Crumbley kick), 10:23
GHS- Mike Byrd 1 run (Staton kick), 7:55
HC- Taquon Marshall 8 run (Crumbley kick), 2:17
GHS- Messiah Dorsey 70 pass from Gonzalez (Staton kick), 2:06
GHS- Williamson 60 pass from Gonzalez (Staton kick), 9:13
HC- Crowder 20 run (Crumbley kick blocked), 2:45
GHS- Williamson 61 pass from Dorsey from Gonzalez (Staton kick), 7:35
GHS- Williamson 4 pass from Gonzalez (Staton kick), 4:02
HC- Crowder 20 run (Crumbley kick), 1:15
HC- Cortez Johnson 8 pass from Marshall (Two-point conversion failed), 7:19
HC- Crowder 52 pass from Marshall (Crumbley kick), 5:28
GHS- Rodney Lackey 61 pass from Gonzalez (Staton kick), 4:10