Coral Gables has been comfortable in recent years trusting its defense to win games.
On Thursday night, defense secured the Cavaliers a season-opening victory over Carol City for the second consecutive season.
Anthony Puntonet, a junior defensive back reached up and hauled in an underthrown pass from Carol City freshman Marcel Williams to secure a 16-13 overtime victory over the Chiefs at Curtis Park.
“As many battles as we can have among our team it’s going bring our competition level up,” Coral Gables coach Roger Pollard said. “We feel like the last drive of the game if we’re up, the Coral Gables defense wants to be on the field to win games. If we don’t come up with the big turnover, we feel like we let our team down.”
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The victory came a year after Coral Gables held off a last-ditch attempt at a winning drive by Carol City for a 14-12 win in each team’s 2015 season opener.
The momentum propelled Coral Gables to a 10-0 record before losing in the second round of the playoffs to rival Columbus.
“We lost so many players from last year so at the end of the day we want to just be 1-0 every week,” Pollard said. “From the mistakes we made even before watching the film, I don’t think I’m going to let them enjoy it too long.
“Everybody remembers the end of last season so my job is to keep getting better every time we step on that field.”
Gables (1-0) took a three-point lead on its first possession of the Kansas tiebreaker on Sebastian Riella’s 25-yard field goal.
Pollard said he originally wanted to defer and let Carol City have the ball first. But he said he had faith his defense would come through.
Puntonet, who Pollard said was in a battle to win a starting spot in the preseason in the Gables secondary, had another key interception earlier in the game.
Gables’ overtime win came moments after Carol City scored twice in the fourth quarter to even the game at 13 on touchdown passes by Williams, who played from the midway point of the first quarter on after starting quarterback Lorenzo Floyd suffered an ankle injury.
But Carol City missed what would have been the go-ahead extra point with 51 seconds remaining keeping the game tied.
Williams connected on a fade route to receiver Kevaughn Dingle in the corner of the end zone to tie the game.
The score came on Carol City’s second drive following a 45-minute lightning delay that halted the game with 6:34 left in the fourth.
Prior to the delay, Williams connected with Terrence Horne, Jr. from six yards out for a touchdown that cut the deficit to 13-7.
Gables forced four Carol City turnovers including a pair that helped it build a 13-0 lead in the first half.
Senior quarterback Nick Galuppo ran for a touchdown and passed for another.
Galuppo, a senior, broke the Carol City’s defense for a 21-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Two drives later, Gables capitalized on a Carol City turnover when Galuppo hit Johnny Ford with a short pass which Ford ran 30 yards to the end zone.
Ford finished with 74 yards rushing on 18 carries and Galuppo passed for 87 yards.