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.