Leopards fall despite near comeback

·3 min read

Sep. 10—Leopard Stadium was packed for homecoming Friday night, and Gainesville fought to the end for a great crowd.

The Gainesville football team fell 50-30 to Dallas Hillcrest despite a spirited second-quarter rally.

Gainesville (0-3) trailed 19-0 but scored 17-straight points to close the gap before halftime.

Hillcrest (2-1) pulled away in the second half thanks to a pick six which completely shifted the momentum.

This game marked the first home game for coach Neil Searcy, a Gainesville graduate. He said the big crowd energized the players.

"The Gainesville community means a lot to me," Searcy said. "They showed up to show these kids and support these kids in a fashion that I hadn't seen in a long time. Really appreciate this community. One thing I want them to know is, don't give up on the Leopards. Stay behind us. These kids are fighting hard for wins and fighting hard for this community because they feel the support and they feel the love. Just keep showing up. I promise we'll get it turned around."

Gainesville got on the board 5:02 before halftime. Cade Searcy broke free down the left sideline on a 43-yard touchdown run one play after connecting with Elijah Gonzalez on a 38-yard pass.

Later, Gainesville drove down the field. Searcy scored again, this time on a 13-yard run. He hurdled a defender into the end zone, drawing a massive cheer from the crowd.

Hillcrest got the ball back, but Searcy intercepted a pass on the first play. The Leopards capitalized with a 41-yard field goal by Hector Lozano, who went on to be named homecoming king at halftime.

The Panthers returned the kickoff deep into Gainesville territory but couldn't score as time ran out.

Neil Searcy said the players are doing everything asked of them, which led to the rally.

"(We've been asking them) to knuckle down, to bear down and fight, and let's play," Searcy said. "Let's play some Gainesville Leopard football, and we showed some glimpses of that, of what we can do. We gotta put that together and play four quarters and not just one."

Hillcrest opened the second half with an impressive touchdown drive, capped off by Reggie Williams on a 1-yard score. Gainesville answered back with a 35-yard touchdown pass by Cade Searcy to London Daniels. After holding the Panthers to a field goal, Gainesville got the ball with a chance to take the lead down 29-24.

Instead, the Panthers forced an errant pass on third down, and Williams took it all the way for a Hillcrest score.

Searcy said the pick six was a big factor in determining the outcome.

"It took a lot of momentum out of us, took a lot of air out of us," Searcy said. "Those things are going to happen in a game, and we gotta learn how to bounce back and knuckle down and fight a little bit."

Gainesville never recovered the momentum, though the Leopards added a touchdown with 1:01 to play when Cade Searcy hit D'Marion Haley for an 8-yard score. The Leopards showed some potential, but the search for the first win of the year continues.