A close game for the first two quarters turned into a one-sided affair in the second half as undefeated Gainesville pulled away for a 48-23 win over Decatur.
A 68-yard touchdown pass from Gainesville’s Mason Copeland to Devin Mims on the last play of the first half shifted the momentum and the Leopards (6-0, 1-0) rolled the rest of the way as the Eagles (4-3, 0-1) lost the district opener.
“It wasn’t the only thing that hurt us. That one play didn’t win the game for them,” Decatur head coach Kyle Story said. “We got beat by a better football team. They outplayed us tonight and outcoached us.”
The Eagles got off to a great start, holding the visitors on their first two possessions. Decatur went to work on their second possession to put up the first points of the night.
Grayson Muehlstein found Austin Givens for a 38-yard touchdown pass, but the 7-0 Decatur lead was short-lived.
Gainesville responded three plays later with a 59-yard run by Adam Berryman.
Early in the second quarter, Decatur answered with another long drive. The Eagles moved it all the way to the Leopard 21 yard line before stalling out.
Clark Allen connected on a 28-yard field goal to give Decatur its final lead.
It only took the Leopards four plays to erase that margin. Adam Berryman scored on a four-yard run to give Gainesville a 14-10 advantage, four minutes before the half.
Decatur drove right back down the field, but again was forced to try a field goal with just over 30 seconds left in the second quarter. Allen’s kick was no good, giving Gainesville the ball at their own 32.
After two running plays, Copeland hit Mims for the back-breaking score with eight seconds left in the half.
Instead of going into the locker room down 14-10, Gainesville took a 21-10 advantage to the break.
“It was a momentum shift, but it didn’t cost us the game,” Story said. “Before that, offensively, if we execute, then we go up 17-14. But we got bogged down and don’t get any points.”
The loss of momentum and Gainesville’s halftime adjustments swung the game in the second half. The Leopards dominated the final 24 minutes enroute to their sixth straight victory.
“They outplayed us in the second half,” Story said. “They were more physical and just whipped us. Those first two series we go three-and-out and then they score.
“All the momentum was on their side after that.”
Decatur also went the last drive of the second quarter and most of the second half without Muehlstein. Justin Meyers filled in till he returned in the fourth quarter.
“He was having migraines and couldn’t see out of one eye,” Story said. “He said he didn’t even get hit, it was just migraine headaches. It stayed blurry through the third quarter, then it cleared up.
“Dr. Alling said his migraine symptoms were gone, so we could put him back in.”
The Leopards outscored the Eagles 27-13 in the second half, racking up 353 rushing yards on the night. Decatur’s defense didn’t have an answer after the break.
“We’ve got to get our heads up and get ready to play Krum next week,” Story said. “Gainesville came over here and outplayed us and they deserve the win.”
GAINESVILLE 48, DECATUR 23
Gainesville … 7 … 14 … 17 … … 10 … – … 48
Decatur … 7 … 3 … 7 … … 6 … – … 23
Decatur – Grayson Muehlstein 38 pass to Austin Givens; Clark Allen kick
Gainesville – Adam Berryman 67 run; Hector Sagrero kick
Decatur – Allen 28 field goal
Gainesville – Berryman 4 run; Sagrero kick
Gainesville – Mason Copeland 68 pass to Devin Mims; Sagrero kick
Gainesville – Copeland 4 run; Sagrero kick
Gainesville – Sagrero 27 field goal
Decatur – Justin Meyers 20 pass to Cain Lowe; Allen kick
Gainesville – Demarius Farr 64 run; Sagrero kick
Gainesville – Copeland 17 pass to Demetrius Franklin; Sagrero kick
Decatur – Muehlstein 31 pass to Lowe; kick failed
Gainesville – Sagrero 28 field goal
GAINESVILLE … DECATUR
First Downs … 15 … 21
Rushes Yards … 353 … 110
Passing Yards … 113 … 250
Total Yards … 466 … 360
Comp-Att-Int … 4-8-0 … 20-33-1
Fumbles lost … 1-1 … 1-1
Penalties … 6-50 … 4-30
Rushing – Decatur, Levi Rust 8-55; Gainesville, Adam Berryman 20-198
Receiving – Decatur, Cain Lowe 9-126; Gainesville, Devin Mims, 1-68
Passing – Decatur, Muehlstein 15-24-209; Gainesville, Mason Copeland, 4-8-113