When your undefeated season comes to an end two seasons in a row against the same opponent it makes it difficult to forget.
But the third time might be charm the charm for Cardinal Gibbons as they take on host Class 5A powerhouse American Heritage Plantation at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
This is the matchup Heritage (4-2) and coach Matt DuBuc have been waiting for. Making the playoffs is always their objective, but that can wait until they “step on Heritage,” as running back Vincent Davis said.
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“How can the Chiefs amend two years of frustration against the Patriots?” tweeted out DuBuc after their holiday workout Monday. “Be a team. […] Buy in or find another sport that requires individual play.”
The pep talk seemed very specific, given his talking points earlier that afternoon.
The 45-year-old coach talked about how beating Heritage is driving their every effort (“it has become our mantra”).
A man of few words, he sits with an orange air-horn in his hands, shades on, almost desperate to jump into action.
He does take his time when talking about his biggest challenge these days.
“Social media gives people false hopes, an avenue for the boys to be very selfish at times, thinking not necessarily about what’s right for the team, but for me”. He suddenly sounds exhausted. “Together we achieve more.”
A former player himself, DuBuc, who was a receiver for Texas Tech, said they “don’t hit in practice like we used to.”
On Monday, they rarely go to the ground, and are playing in shorts. “They’re prepared to go to battle every day, but it’s our job to find drills that protect them the best we can,” he said.
Aside the habitual trust of a coach for his team, there are real reasons to believe this might finally be the Chiefs’ year. A third of the players in their roster are seniors this season, some of them at skill positions, where years of development amount to better chances of success.
Such is the case of quarterback Nik Scalzo, a 5-11 Kentucky commit known for his precise ball-placing. Before this season, Scalzo had only lost to Heritage.
“I’m just not losing against them again,” he states.
During practice, DuBuc calls play after play, many of them dependent on the interaction of Scalzo with senior wide receiver Vincent Davis.
Davis runs left to right once and again, as Scalzo moves around looking for the right pass.
Davis has been waiting for another go at Heritage for a year.
“All summer I thought about playing this year, approaching the game differently, becoming more intense,” the Pittsburgh commit said.
A third key player will make his comeback this Friday: defensive end Khris Bogle. Bogle commands the applause of the coaches, as he makes his way to the field wearing a big, red knee brace.
“As a coach you just want quality people, and you continue to push them to give their best every day,” DuBuc said.
And, with the honk of his horn, he’s off to practice.