The Patriots (11-0) defeated the Cardinal Gibbons Chiefs (9-2) in a nail-biting 10-7 win to advance to the regional final game next week vs. Bishop Moore in Orlando.
The Patriots started the game off well as senior kicker Zack Thomson kicked a 30-yard field goal on the first drive, but the offense remained stagnant until the fourth quarter.
After going up 3-0, the Patriots were plagued by penalties, as were the Chiefs. Cardinal Gibbons faced a 3rd & 55 on its own 33-yard line, and the Patriots logged 102 penalty yards in the first half alone. After 35 penalties were recorded in the teams’ first meeting Oct. 14, the referees were clearly watching closely for unsportsmanlike conduct and other personal fouls.
Junior cornerbacks Pat Surtain Jr. and Tyson Campbell intercepted Chiefs quarterback Nik Scalzo, and the Patriots’ defense did well to thwart the Chiefs’ offense. The Chiefs’ only points came in the third quarter when senior quarterback Jason Brown botched a handoff in the end zone and a Chief defender fell on the ball for a touchdown.
The Patriots’ offense continually went three and out, and at the end of the third quarter, the score remained at 7-3 in favor of the Chiefs. It seemed that if the Patriots did not stimulate their offense, their season would have ended, but junior running back Miles Jones provided just the spark the offense needed.
Jones led the team on a crucial drive that resulted in Brown putting the ball in the end zone on a one-yard quarterback sneak with just under six minutes left in the game. Senior linebacker Willie Hampton sealed the game by sacking Scalzo on the Chiefs’ next drive. The Patriots’ offense was able to run out the clock and give the Chiefs only 44 seconds to score.
The defense was, as always, impressive. The only points resulted from a turnover from the offense, and the defense contained Scalzo and other offensive weapons on the Chiefs. Junior defensive end Andrew Chatfield logged three sacks, and the rest of the defensive line and linebacker corps continually pressured Scalzo.
The run game, especially Jones, was also especially promising. In the teams’ previous meeting, the Patriots rushed for 230 yards, but in this game, the run game was held in check for a majority of the first half. It was not until the Patriots’ second to last drive that Jones electrified the offense and carried them down the field, converting a crucial 4th & 3 and setting up the touchdown.
The Patriots will take on the Bishop Moore Hornets (11-1) Nov. 25 in the regional final game. The Hornets are the reigning state champion of District 5A.