Game of the Week: Gainesville vs Houston County

Our Quarterfinals Game of the Week takes us out of our typical coverage area to see the #4-ranked Red Elephants of Gainesville play host to #6 Houston County. Should be a special night at Bobby Gruhn Field.


Gainesville has rolled through the 2022 season, up to a flawless 12-0 mark with a top-10 ranked offense and defense. The reloaded Red Elephants have one of the state’s richest histories. New coach Josh Niblett has so many weapons at his disposal, notably Baxter Wright (QB), Naim Cheeks (RB), Darius Cannon (3* WR), Tre Reece (WR), Sky Niblett (TE) and Travien Watson (WR). Those are the offensive threats, and Jeremiah Telander (3* LB, Tennesse commit) and Carmelo Byrd (LB) are 2 big playmakers to watch on defense. In a word, this team is outstanding.


Houston County is a 10-2 4-seed that is playing its best ball right now. They are young in several key spots, including SO QB Antwann Hill, JR RB Ryan Taleb, and JR WRs Kale Woodburn, Ricky Johnson, and Recordo Tarver. With over 3,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards, the Bears are fairly balanced. This defense isn’t bulletproof, but it does average nearly 2 sacks per game and nearly 2 turnovers per contest. The offense though is where Houston thrives, averaging north of 450 yards per game and 43.4 points (2nd best in the state).



  • 12-0 (6-0 in 8-AAAAAA)
  • Region Standings: Region Champions
  • 39.4 OFFENSE AVG (6th in Class 6A)
  • 12.8 DEFENSE AVG (4th in Class 6A)
  • #4 State Ranking


  • 10-2 (3-2 in 1-AAAAAA)
  • Region Standings: Region 4th
  • 43.4 OFFENSE AVG (2nd in Class 6A)
  • 23.3 DEFENSE AVG
  • #6 State Ranking


Be looking for highlights post-game late tonight as well as a story recapping the Quarterfinals. BLITZ partners with Fox 5’s 11 PM “High 5 Sports” show throughout the season. We make sure to get Gainesville coverage on the big market show! You can also follow us on Twitter (@BlitzSportsGa) for live score updates (5G pending).


Niblett is a veteran coach with 7 state championships (all in Alabama) and at 248 wins to date. He’s phenomenal as a head coach in every aspect. That said, he has this Gainesville team laser-focused on a chance at a semifinals berth for the first time since the Deshaun Watson days in 2012-13. Gainesville’s cup is running over with talent and veteran leadership. The top-10 offense and defense shows the tremendous talent and discipline of the Red Elephants. On the opposite sideline, you’ve got a first-year coach with Jeremy Edwards over a still young, though solid team. Houston County already has a pair of top-10 wins this season, and are 2-0 in this playoff run with both games on the road. The Bears have the second-best offense in Class 6A, and the defense is not shabby at all. Still, Gainesville is favored in just about every way in this game, and home field makes it even moreso favorable. Gainesville all day in this one!


We’ve covered 13 Gainesville games, and the Red Elephants are 10-3 in those contests. Almost all of them have been HUGE games, such as the 2012 State Championship, 3 region title games, and several playoff games. In the playoff editions, we’ve seen Gainesville go 5-0.


TIME: 7:30 PM Kickoff
PLACE: Gainesville, GA / City Park / Bobby Gruhn Field
RECORDS: #4 Gainesville Red Elephants (12-0; Region Champions 8-AAAAAA); #6 Houston County Bears (10-2; Region 4th in 1-AAAAAA)
HEAD COACHES: Josh Niblett (248-58; 22 Seasons; 7 State Titles); Jeremy Edwards (10-2; 1 Season)


These programs have never linked up.

TEAM LEADERS (2022 Stats)

*Stats accumulated by team-published data on Ga Maxpreps


Baxter Wright – 2,659 yds, 31 TD, 4 INT, 72% completion

Naim Cheeks – 1,511 yds, 18 TD, 8.3 YPC
Baxter Wright – 403 yds, 7 TD, 5.8 YPC
Kylan Hall – 298 yds, 3 TD, 7.3 YPC
Marquis Ross – 277 yds, 2 TD, 5.5 YPC

Darius Cannon – 645 yds, 8 TD, 34 rec
Trevian Watson – 566 yds, 3 TD, 42 rec
Tre Reece – 518 yds, 10 TD, 32 rec
Naim Cheeks – 416 yds, 2 TD, 24 rec
Sky Niblett – 367 yds, 9 TD, 23 rec
Philip Williams – 136 yds, 1 TD, 10 rec

DEFENSIVE LEADERS (partial stats)
Jeremiah Telander – 58 TKL, 5 TFL, 1 Sack, 1 INT
Cameron Byrd – 34 TKL, 4 TFL, 3 INT, 1 FF
Aveion Young – 21 TKL, 4 TFL
Elias Ballard – 21 TKL, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 1 FF


Antwann Hill, Jr – 3,246 yds, 36 TD, 6 INT, 71% completion

Ryan Taleb – 1,598 yds, 19 TD, 6.8 YPC
Christian Stokes – 221 yds, 3 TD, 7.1 YPC
Amir Thomas – 185 yds, 2 TD, 4.9 YPC
Nick Jordan – 110 yds, 5 TD, 3.3 YPC

Kale Woodburn – 854 yds, 10 TD, 58 rec
Ricky Johnson – 830 yds, 11 TD, 51 rec
Recordo Tarver – 446 yds, 4 TD, 32 rec
Ryan Taleb – 316 yds, 4 TD, 29 rec
Joshua Henry – 203 yds, 1 TD, 19 rec
Arthur Brown – 172 yds, 3 TD, 15 rec

Ryan Mackey – 54 TKL, 5 TFL, 2 Sacks, 1 INT, 1 FR
Arthur Brown – 53 TKL, 6 TFL, 2 INT
EJ Nobles – 51 TKL, 10 TFL, 5 Sacks, 2 FR
JD Smith – 46 TKL, 2 TFL, 1 INT
Brandon Walden – 33 TKL, 14 TFL, 4 Sacks
Nick Jordan – 32 TKL, 3 TFL, 2 INT, 2 FR
Jayden Jackson – 23 TKL, 9 TFL, 4 Sacks, 1 INT, 1 FR, 2 FF

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