Cardinal Gibbons is ready for the 2017 season as they won a statement game beating the defending state champion Miami Southridge Spartans, 27-6 at Traz Powell stadium, on Saturday night.
This was part of an opening weekend, Best of Dade vs. Broward matchup at Traz. Both counties had each one once in the three game series (Central beat Chaminade-Madonna 48-24, Deerfield Beach beat Carol City 6-2) so this game was the rubber match. Southridge was the favorite as they were the defending 8A state champions and they acted like it entering the field with a “Miami Hurricane-like” smoke filled entrance. The Gibbons players ran out to greet them taunting which started pushing and shoving that led to offsetting penalties before the first offensive play.
The Champs made noise early--The Chiefs got the ball to start and things went about as bad as they could—a snap over the head of quarterback Nick Scalzo from center bounced down to the goal line and as the fans were shouting to throw it out of bounds, he looked to actually salvage the busted play by looking to pass which caused him to get gang-sacked at the one yard line. The resulting punt was returned to the two and two plays later, Southridge scored to go up 6-0. When it seemed like the Champs were going to impose their will for the rest of the game after Cardinal Gibbons quarterback Nick Scalzo threw an interception, the Chiefs run defense stopped the Spartans offense (#99 Rashon Crooks, #33 Donnell Bennett III and #71 Jordan Johnson) to force a punt.
The Chiefs started to scrap and push back on offense getting a 38 yard field goal to make the score 6-3. They scored again later in the half on a wide open touchdown catch from Scalzo to Carlos Sandy which looked to be on a busted coverage by the Spartans to go up 10-6.
The key sequence of the game occurred then after halftime when, on the opening drive, Southridge started at their own 34 but committed two holding penalties consecutively to push them back to their own 9 yard line. The defensive line of the Chiefs smelled blood here and were able to tackle a runner at the one yard line and on the next play get a safety on quarterback Michael Cox Jr. to make it 12-6. On the free kick, Cardinal Gibbons came out on their own 48 and Scalzo connected with Sandy again on an “up for grabs” pass where Sandy, as if he were a magician leaving the crowd in suspense, popped up with the ball after he and the defensive back were entangled as they went out simultaneously for the pass.
The Chiefs got a score on another touchdown pass by Scalzo where the receiver was wide open and Gibbons was starting to pull away.
Southridge got the ball to start the next drive at their own 27 and at midfield, they faced a fourth down conversion which they were able to make. Spartan quarterback Michael Cox Jr. ran to convert the first down and then took a keeper down to the 13 yard line, showing the Spartans grit. But, after a sack of Cox and a crucial holding penalty, the team was pushed back to the 32 yard line. Cox threw a long pass down in the red zone which was easily intercepted.
The Spartan offensive and defensive lines committed these crucial pre-snap penalties the entire game which must have exhausted them mentally. It was evident when on the succeeding drive, Cardinal Gibbons got a first down on two offsides penalties by Southridge. The defensive players were clapping their hands violently, frustrated at the mistakes.
Cardinal Gibbons went 9-2 last season and lost in the 1st round of the playoffs to eventual State Champion Plantation American Heritage (Patriots). They certainly have the team this year to challenge the Patriots. They play Delray Beach American Heritage next week on Friday. The Spartans tweeted out their response after the game that they fought a tough team, took the “L” and will look to rebound next week against North Miami High.