Tigers can't corral Leopards' 2nd effort

From start to finish, Gainesville dominated the border war.

Even without star receiver David Moore, the Leopards rolled up 275 yards rushing and a bevy of yards after contact to defeat Ardmore 27-8 Friday at Noble Stadium.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Leopards (3-0) scored 20 points in the second to effectively put the game away before halftime. Running back Johnathan Mendez finished with a game-high 124 yards on just six carries, including touchdowns of 13 and 80 yards.

The problem for the Tigers on Friday was missed tackles against Gaineville's hard-running Wing T. Each of the Leopards' four scores came after contact, as Gainesville (3-0) made a habit of slipping tackles at the line of scrimmage and beyond.

"We were in great position on several plays that they broke," Ardmore coach Douglas Wendel said. "They had the speed, I think they beat us a little bit up front.

"It was the most speed we've seen, maybe faster than anybody we'll play this year."

Without Moore, a Division I prospect at receiver, Gainesville's running game was the focal point. But the Leopards had balance, too, as quarterback Denzel Johnson had 137 all-purpose yards.

His 17-yard TD run in the second quarter put Gainesville up 20-0 at the break. Johnson was also able to open up the running game with his arm, tossing for 92 yards.

Danny Nipp stepped up in Moore's absence to catch three passes for 55 yards.

"I was real pleased," Gainesville coach Keith Hall said. "We wanted to make sure we could throw the ball and spread it around. Our quarterback is awful talented and he can make some things happen."

Ardmore defense had its momemtum-changing moments, forcing two turnovers. Wendel Williamson came up with a fumble recovery for the Tigers in the first quarter. In the third, Darius Lawson was able to strip Gainesville quarterback Denzel Johnson, and Trey Baptiste fell on the loose ball.

On offense, Ardmore benefitted from 12 Gainesville penalties for 81 yards, but still couldn't convert those opportunities into points.

Gainesville gifted Ardmore with three first downs on offsides calls. With Gainesville gifting yardage, the Tigers moved into Leopards' red zone five times over the course of the game, but only came away with points once.

The Leopards held Ardmore to 3-of-12 on third-down conversions.

"One thing we have played consistently all year is real good defense," Hall said.

Ardmore's lone score came on a 1-yard run by Andrew Clark with 3 seconds left in the final period. Prior to Clark's TD, the Tigers went 0-for-4 in the red zone, with two drives stalling at the Gainesville 6-yard line.

The Tigers lost a fumble and missed a 23-yard field goal on the two others.

"I thought it was a valliant effort," Wendel said. "We had a good plan and a good week; I thought we got better this week. Jeff (Surrell) made some fantastic decisions on the options all night long. He grew up a lot."

Surrell paced Ardmore with 120 yards rushing on 17 carries, and Lawson and Jarred Hall had 41 and 42 yards rushing, respectively. Devin Reynolds led Ardmore's receivers with three catches for 20 yards.

Ardmore finished its non-district schedule with a 1-2 record. The Tigers will play Southeast (1-2) in its District 5A-1 opener Friday at Noble Stadium.

"I knew when I scheduled them, this would be tough for us," Wendel said. "A game like this, it stings right now, but it prepares us for district."

Erik K. Horne