The Raiders took a giant leap in the right direction with a pivotal 49-32 win over visiting Gainesville in a “must-win” region game. Former Red Elephant and current Habersham Central star QB Tre Luttrell showed out with four touchdown passes, while Tracey Lowery torched the Gainesville defense with a career night highlighted by three rushing scores.
“Ain’t gonna need a Hail Mary tonight,” said Luttrell just before kickoff, referring to last year’s meeting where on the flip side he needed a miracle TD pass to knock off Habersham Central at City Park. That kind of confidence helped guide the Raiders to victory on Friday night.
Habersham (4-3; 1-1) scored early and often throughout the first half, trailing initially 3-0 before going up 28-10 just before the break. Gainesville (0-7; 0-2) scored a short-yardage TD to bridge the gap to 28-17 into halftime.
While it appeared the Raiders had the game on lock going into the fourth with a sizeable 42-17 lead, Gainesville did score 15 straight to pull within 42-32 and had the ball around midfield with about six minutes left. Habersham forced a turnover on downs before capping the scoring late.
The Red Elephants got the scoring started with a 32-yard field goal on the opening drive, where the Habersham defense made a valiant stand. The Raiders went to work, with Lowery scoring the first of his three touchdowns with just under six left in the first, a 14-yard carry into the end zone. Midway through the second quarter Lowery struck again with an 11-yard TD to stretch the lead to 14-3.
Gainesville would respond with Dez Brown taking one in from eight yards out with 1:50 to play. It was the first of four touchdowns in the final two minutes of the half. On the very next play, Tre Luttrell heaved one long for DonDon Bailey, who raced down the sideline for a 61-yard TD as the Raiders went up 21-10.
The Red Elephants threw an interception, hauled in by Patrick Tedder. It set the Raiders up nicely, as the duo of Luttrell and Donovan Curry hooked up for an 11-yard TD with 52 seconds left in the half. Gainesville was able to net a touchdown on a drive that spanned the rest of the quarter, with QB Gionni Williams scoring from a yard out to close it to 28-17.
The Raiders lit up the board once again on the opening drive of the second half with a Luttrell to Bailey 5-yd TD to go up 35-17. That lead ballooned to 42-17 late in the third when Luttrell hit Curry on a 34-yard bomb on 4th down and 20, with Curry being left open just inside the goal line and making an athletic play by coming back to the ball and catching it on the ground just inside the pylon.
However, the fourth quarter proved to be a struggle for the Raiders, as they let Gainesville back in with 15 unanswered points, closing to within 42-32 after a 22-yard TD run by Williams and then a 28-yard TD run by Brown, which was followed by a successful two-point conversion with 7:04 remaining. Luttrell then threw an interception to give it back to Gainesville down 10 with 6-plus on the clock. The Red Elephants got near midfield but turned the ball over on downs.
Lowery then put the game away with a 43-yard touchdown, his third of the night, to cap the scoring at 49-32. Curry and Bailey both had two touchdown receptions.
Gainesville now is 0-7 (0-2 in region) for the first time in over 20 years. The Red Elephants have lost nine straight, which marks the second-longest losing streak for Gainesville in its long history. The Red Elephants lost 10 straight from 1997-98, with the streak ending one day before the one year mark.