By Marcus Benjamin @_benjaminmoney
“It’s playoff football and that’s what it’s all about. We move on and we’ll take it,” said Head Coach Pat Surtain after his kicker Jimmy Lowery kicked the extra point in the third overtime to win the Class 5A playoff rematch against rival Cardinal Gibbons to advance to the state semifinals.
Senior defensive lineman John Alyn was able to block Cardinal Gibbons extra point in the third frame of overtime to set up the game winning scores.
“We preach to block the kick and hell of an effort by John busting through there. Probably the most crucial part of the game. I’m a very proud coach.”
Cardinal Gibbons lost 10-7 in last year’s playoff game on Heritage’s home field and 23-19 earlier this year on the Chiefs’ home field. Determined to erase the ghosts of games past, Gibbons jumped out to a three score lead. Senior cornerback Marquis Williams returned a kick to the five yard line that Vincent Davis would convert for a five yard touchdown run. Nik Scalzo then connected with Tajae Davis with a flea flicker on a 50-yard throw and catch. That score was then followed by a blocked punt by Nathan Alexis which he would scoop and score. The Chiefs opened up a 27-6 lead with 1:51 remaining in the half and the Gibbons players and fans started to believe.
“Even though we were down we weren’t out,” said Surtain. “They hit us with a trick play they got a punt block, but we hung in there. That’s what championship teams do we hung in there and found a way to win and that’s what we did.”
One of the more crucial parts of the this game is what would transpire right before the half. Senior Anthony Schwartz who finished the game with two touchdowns, would take the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown sparking a rally of 35 unanswered points. Senior quarterback Cameron Smith who would accounted for seven touchdowns in the game, connected with Marcus Lodge with sixteen seconds left to make the score a manageable 27-20 before half.
The Patriots seemed to impose their will in the third quarter as they would extend there lead 41-27. Gibbons attempted a second flea flicker with the first play of the fourth quarter that was intercepted by Dyllon Lester in the endzone.
Heritage nearly fumbled their way to elimination by giving up two turnovers when they were seemingly trying to run the clock out. Gibbons recovered the first fumble in Patriot territory and scored on a Lavonte Decius touchdown catch from inside the ten yard line. Gibbons capitalized on the second fumble as Ronald Hardge scooped up the loose ball and rushed into the endzone to tie the game 41-41 with 2:06 left. Heritage actually setup for the game winning field goal just before regulation concluded, but a mishandled snap never saw the ball get off the ground.
After exchanging touchdowns and field goals in the first and second overtime, Anthony Schwartz would score the game tying touchdown for the undefeated patriots.
“Anthony Schwartz, what more can I say about him catching the winning touchdown and then executing the PAT and coming out the victory. My hat’s off to Gibbons, those kids fought, but our kids fought to.”
American Heritage will put their undefeated record on the line against undefeated Immokalee next week at home in Plantation. The winner of that game punches their ticket to Orlando for the state championship in seven days as we all catch our collective breath from an absolute thriller.