Denmark's offense needed the drive of its life.
The Danes raced to a 21-0 lead Friday, but Gainesville had scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives, including a 12-yard TD run by Gionni Williams that tied the game with 6:17 left.
Denmark responded with a 10-play, 66-yard drive that melted 4 minutes off the clock and ended with Trey Glymph knocking through a game-winning 24-yard field goal.
Gainesville got the ball with 1:53 left in the game, but a couple of short passes and an incompletion had the Red Elephants staring at a fourth-and-8. Williams tucked the ball and managed to get back to the line of scrimmage, where he was met by Austin DeCarlo and several other Denmark defenders.
“After they made a couple of big plays on us, we kind of got a little bit on our heels, but we made a play," Denmark head coach Mike Palmieri said. "We drove the ball, kicked a field goal and executed the stop to win the game.”
Aaron McLaughlin completed 2 of 3 passes for 34 yards during the drive, while Brandon Britton accounted for 48 yards, setting up the field goal.
Denmark's offensive line gave McLaughlin the time needed to complete passes to Casey Gunn and Brandon Britton, then managed to push the Red Elephants off the line during Britton's 14-yard run down to the 15-yard line.
“Just go out there and do our thing," Denmark offensive lineman Will Purdy said of the game-winning drive. "Do our assignment, do what we’re supposed to do, drive them back and get the yards.”
McLaughlin, who was hobbled by a leg injury, completed 14 of 19 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns. Two of his touchdowns went to Azari Brown, including a 50-yard score to get the Danes on the board. McLaughlin also found Teddy Davenport in the corner of the end zone on a 15-yard TD pass, then went back to Brown on a 21-yard toss.
“He’s banged up, but he’s a warrior, though. He’s our leader," Palmieri said. "There’s no way he wasn’t going to play tonight. We tried to get into some sets to protect him a little bit.”
Brown caught three passes for 88 yards and two scores.
Britton surpassed the century mark on the ground, carrying the ball 17 times for 101 yards and catching two passes for 35 yards.
Denmark (5-3, 5-0 Region 6-7A) accounted for 333 total yards and averaged nearly seven yards per play. McLaughlin was sacked only one time.
“We came in knowing what we had to do," Purdy said. "We had a job to do and we just had to execute.”
The win turns next week's regular-season finale into the Region 6-7A championship after West Forsyth (6-3, 4-1 Region 6-7A) beat Lambert 42-27.
Williams led Gainesville with 244 total yards, completing 8 of 13 passes for 116 yards and rushing 17 times for 128 yards. His 76-yard pass to Jonquavies Drinkard made it a 21-14 game minutes before Williams' 12-yard TD tied the game.
Naim Cheeks added 117 yards and a score on 18 carries, the bulk of which coming on a 63-yard TD run midway through the second quarter.
“Those are the best athletes we’ve seen so far," Palmieri said. "Them and Lanier — Lanier had a couple of players like that too. They were impressive.”
Cheeks' long run came after Trey Patterson delivered a heavy hit on Gainesville backup QB Baxter Wrigth. On third-and-12, Wright took the snap on a QB rollout, getting the ball out just before the hit by Patterson, who was flagged for roughing the passer.
Cheeks took the ball over the left tackle for 63 yards on the next play.
"When you have athletes like that, you’ve got to play pretty good," Palmieri said. "You make one mistake and they take it to the house.”
Denmark forced three turnovers on defense. Treston Jordan picked off a pass and recovered a fumble in the second quarter.
Denmark is nearing full strength after battling injuries and losing players to quarantine. One of the spots the Danes have improved is their offensive line.
“We’ve finally got a line that’s consistent," Palmieri said. "We hadn’t played with our whole team for a while, so we finally get those O-linemen in there, and they need reps. They’re getting better. Coach (Liam) Corely does a great job with them.”
Purdy missed four games at the beginning of the season, but has seen his teammates step in and fill the void.
“I think Jack (Madden) has really stepped up as a leader when I was out, and even when I’m still here," Purdy said. "He’s leading the O-line. He’s doing a really good job. He’s a little undersized, but he plays like he’s 250 pounds.”
Denmark has won five straight games since Sept. 25. A win next week would give the Danes the Region 6-7A championship.
“The numbers are low and we’ve had injuries, you know?" Palmieri said. "It’s a tribute to these kids and these coaches and what they’ve done this year, and what they still want to do.”