When Cardinal Gibbons coach Mike Morrill saw Christian Blake sprinting down the home sideline all by himself, he gasped. Quarterback Ryan Giaratano wasn’t looking that way.
Giaratano would soon enough — and his perfect pass to the wide-open receiver with 14.1 seconds remaining lifted the host Chiefs to a come-from-behind 27-26 district victory over Dillard.
“Once he saw him, he let it go,”’ said Morrill, whose team was being manhandled and trailed 20-7 at halftime. “What a great win for us. We really hung in there and came out with a different game in the second half.”’
Cardinal Gibbons is now 7-0 going into its key district game with American Heritage in two weeks. The Panthers (4-3) get Heritage next week with their season more than likely at stake.
Dillard dominated the first half, stunning the Chiefs by outgaining them 231-55 in the opening 24 minutes. It seemed everything that could go wrong for the home team did — from botched kickoff returns on a ball that refused to bounce into the end zone to untimely sacks.
The Panthers took a 7-0 lead when Lee Martin charged in from the 7, only Gibbons bounded back after a muffed punt attempt and tied the score when Peyton Bender found David Senior from 15 yards out. The rest of the half belonged to Dillard, with Eddie Roberts scoring from the 18 and Dre’Sean Nelson going in on a one-play drive that went 53 yards.
Gibbons marched down the field on its first possession of the second half with Bender tossing a 35-yard pass to Trevon Lee before Marcus Dixon gave Gibbons its first lead off a 4-yard run.
The Panthers, who were hampered by ill-timed penalties that sometimes were a little questionable, retook the lead when Martin found Dennis Turner on a sharp slant. Turner caught the pass in stride and beat the rest of the Gibbons’ defense for a 78-yard score.
Gibbons had one more shot at it late in the game and things looked bleak as it faced a fourth-and-5 from the 40. That’s when Giaratano found Blake for the touchdown of the season. Blake caught just one pass -- and it was a good one.
“We just didn’t finish this one,”’ Dillard coach Lorenzo Davis said. “We still have a chance. We have a game against American Heritage and we have to go get it. We need to finish.”
• University School 27, Westminster Christian 0: Quarterback Michael White was 16 of 29 for 192 yards, and University held Westminster Christian to 75 yards of total offense to clinch the District 8-3A title for the Suns (7-0, 3-0).
Eight of White’s 16 completions went to Jordan Cunningham, who finished with 123 yards and made several of his catches near the sidelines.
Sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett was limited to 10 carries for 41 yards and a touchdown on a bad ankle. LaJuan Hunt took the majority of the workload on the ground. He had 100 yards on 14 carries.
The Warriors (4-4, 1-2) successfully kept University’s scoring down by running as much time off the play clock between plays and keeping the Suns’ high-powered offense off the field.
University middle linebacker Skai Moore picked off Westminster Christian quarterback Elbre Gaiter twice on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter. He fumbled on the return of the first one to give possession back to the Warriors, but intercepted Gaiter again three plays later.
• South Plantation 35, Coral Springs 0: Undefeated South Plantation continued its winning ways in its District 11-8A game against host Coral Springs without its top offensive weapon.
Sitting injured senior running back Alex Collins for all but one play, the Paladins shut out their second consecutive opponent at James L. Caldwell Field at Colts Stadium.
Senior quarterback John Franklin finished 9 for 17 for 211 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for 46 yards on four carries.
“I went over and told him — having sat Alex — ‘If you’re going to be the man, you’ve got to be the man,’ ” coach Doug Gatewood said. “I’m happy that John got the chance to really showcase himself.”
Both teams took turns turning the ball over on downs in a scoreless first quarter. Coral Springs (3-4, 1-2) drove 69 yards on 13 plays, but couldn’t punch it in on its opening possession. A fake field goal failed to convert the first down and halted the Colts’ best scoring opportunity of the night.
The Paladins (7-0, 3-0) grabbed a 14-0 halftime lead on a pair of deep second-quarter passes from Franklin — one to senior Howard Davis for 63 yards and another to junior Richard Darius for 50 yards.
In the second half, Franklin found both Darius and Davis again for touchdowns before being replaced by senior backup quarterback Brian Connerton, who also threw for a touchdown. He connected with senior Rakeesh Davis for a 10-yard score with 3:51 remaining in the game.
Collins, who suffered a slight sprain and bruise on the left side of his right shin in last week’s victory over Hollywood Hills, has 1,057 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. That includes two 200-plus-yard games and at least 100 yards in all but one of them.
Christina De Nicola
• Cypress Bay 35, West Broward 7: The Lightning did all its damage in the first half and never looked back against the Bobcats in a District 12-8A game during Cypress Bay’s homecoming.
The Lightning (5-2, 4-0) outgained the Bobcats (1-7, 0-6) 264-26 for a 35-0 halftime lead as it wasted no time getting on the board, scoring on its first three possessions for a 21-0 first quarter lead.
Dayes, who already had 100 yards on nine first-half carries, scored four touchdowns on runs of 10, 13, and 10 yards. He scored on a 20-yard reception off a Jaranta Lewis touchdown pass.
Alex Montgomery had 70 yards on two carries, including a 49-yard touchdown, and Lewis had 87 yards on five carries.
• St. Thomas Aquinas 63, Nova 13: John O’Korn threw five touchdown passes, and Fred Coppet scored three touchdowns three different ways as St. Thomas Aquinas rolled to the district win.
The Raiders (5-2, 3-0 District 15-7A) dominated the game, especially on defense, where they recorded eight sacks — five coming from the Bosa brothers, senior Joey and freshman Nick — and held the Titans to 170 total yards of offense.
St. Thomas did trail in the game, after Nova (4-4, 1-3) scored on the second play of the game — a 15-yard touchdown pass to Andreu Harris from Michael Flood. But it was punch that the Raiders easily shrugged off — scoring nine unanswered touchdowns.
In just one half of action, O’Korn finished 11 of 13 with 152 yards to go along with the five scores and Coppet rushed for a game-high 51 yards, caught a 30-yard touchdown pass, and returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown — the first of Aquinas’ nine in a row.
• Plantation 54, McArthur 14: More than 600 yards of total offense propelled the Colonels (6-1, 3-0) to a sixth consecutive win as they downed the Mustangs (3-4, 1-2) in front of a homecoming crowd at PAL Field. With the win, Plantation has clinched a playoff spot.
• Pine Crest 31, John Carroll 21: Trevor Osceola went 17 for 79 with a touchdown. Zach Smith 12 for 69. Kyle Diener went 6 for 38.