Augusta Prep coach Harry Bacheller gathered his team on the field Friday night and asked them how they wanted to respond.
After physically beating a Gatewood team last year in the regular season – a Gators squad that advanced all the way to the GISA state title game – the Cavaliers found themselves getting punished all night in a 34-8 region-opening defeat.
“It was exactly like this last year but just the opposite,” Bacheller said. “That team regrouped, didn’t fold and went all the way to the state championship. I don’t know if we can do that, because we just got manhandled. We got out-head coached. Mentally, we weren’t here from the beginning, dropping open touchdown passes, committing unsportsmanlike penalties. That all falls on me.
“We’ll find out next week how they want to respond.”
In a battle of two offensive juggernauts, Gatewood (6-0), which entered averaging 52 points a game, held up its end of the bargain. The Gators, who never punted, rushed for 330 yards and added 30 yards through the air on a Reid Sasser touchdown pass to Sean Dugan.
Sasser added two more rushing touchdowns and finished with 91 yards on the ground. Brandon Belans, who scored on a 19-yard touchdown run, led Gatewood with 121 yards on 17 carries. Yale Stapp rushed 19 times for 109 yards, adding a 3-yard touchdown run.
Augusta Prep (4-1), which scored 46 or more points in each of its previous four games, never got in rhythm on offense. The team finished with 139 rushing yards, most of that in the fourth quarter. B.J. Stone led the Cavaliers with 119 yards on 11 carries with the team’s lone touchdown with 8:08 remaining.
Augusta Prep quarterbacks Will Dorn and Justin Meddings struggled to connect with receivers most of the night. They finished a combined 7 for 20 passing for 54 yards.
“The offense never got in sync. I think we tried to add too much and do too much,” Bacheller said. “Defensively, they just whipped us.”
Augusta Prep’s night got off to a bad start when Dorn’s 35-yard pass to open the game - a potential touchdown pass down the left sideline - was dropped. On the Cavaliers’ next drive, Stone’s 81-yard touchdown run was called back because of a block in the back.
Gatewood looked unstoppable on the ground at the start. The Gators marched 55 yards in 10 plays, Sasser capping the drive with an option keep left on fourth and goal from the 1.
Augusta Prep stopped Gatewood at the 2 on fourth down early in the second quarter. Later, Tej Patel broke up a Hail Mary pass in the end zone at the end of the half. Gatewood led 7-0 at intermission.
The Gators opened the second half with a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Gatewood added touchdowns on its next two drives to open up a 27-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.