The Gainesville Red Elephants had to feel good about their chances Friday night after sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson, on the first play from scrimmage, took the ball 83 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead less than 20 seconds into the game. Burke County would answer immediately with a Donquell Green 90-yard kick return for a score, and the Bears would rarely let up in a 63-28 victory in the Class AAA semifinal showdown.
Burke County would hand the ball off to seven different ball carriers on the Bears second touchdown drive, capped off by Montres Kitchens two-yard score. A Gainesville fumble at midfield gave the Bears a short field, and they quickly took advantage. Kitchens rushed for 30 yards, and Green finished off the drive on the next play from 20 yards out, scoring from the Wildcat QB position.
Gainesville would draw to within seven after Watson scored his second rushing touchdown of the night just minutes into the second quarter, but Kitchens and Burke County would answer. Two big runs by quarterback Corey Mayton set up Kitchens from three yards outs. Green and Mayton would each score a touchdown in the second quarter before Watson found Caleb Hayman to stop the bleeding. Watson’s pass fell right into the hands of Hayman in the end zone on 4th and six from 25 yards out to trim the deficit to 41-21 at intermission.
In the third the Bears attacked again, recovering Gainesville’s onside kick attempt and getting an 18-yard touchdown from Dre Howard. Green would add his third rushing score of the night from 36 yards out and Kitchens would take it 55 yards to the house for a 63-21 lead and a running fourth quarter clock. Watson would wrap up his sophomore year with a six-yard touchdown toss to Hayman on 4th and four to reach the final 63-28 margin. Watson finished with four touchdowns and over 350 yards of total offense on the night. He surpassed 4000 total yards and 57 touchdowns on the season with the effort. Kitchens and Green each rushed for three scores though Green also returned a kick for a score. Mayton and Howard each tallied one touchdown.
Burke County returns to the state finals for the first time since 1997, a 21-19 loss to Thomas County Central.