After dominating the newly formed GMAC Independent Conference all season long, it only figured that Krop and Goleman would put on a show in the championship game on Wednesday night.
A show it was as the two teams traded punches all night long, and it was Krop that came up with one more big play. Lightning defensive back Malik Pendegrass dove and knocked a pass away at the goal line on fourth down with 53 seconds left to preserve a 24-20 victory for Krop in front of a nice crowd at Milander Stadium.
“When I saw the ball in the air, I just knew I had to somehow get a hand on it,” Pendegrass said. “I saw they had a receiver open [Zach Valcarcel was open for an instant] and knew if I didn’t get there, it might be a touchdown. What a feeling this is to bring a championship to Krop High School.” The win avenged the Lightning’s only loss of the year when the Gators won big three weeks ago (46-21) and ruined what Goleman players had hoped would be a perfect 11-0 season, instead finishing 10-1.
“I’m so proud of these kids for finding a way to get this done tonight,” Krop coach Tom Caporale said. “We put in a few new wrinkles tonight in adjusting from the loss a few weeks ago and these kids did just a super job of going out there and executing. What a great moment for this school and this program.”
The Gators couldn’t have asked for a better start. On their third play from scrimmage, Hernandez dropped back and found his big-play receiver Avari Marshall behind the Krop secondary and hit him in stride for a 77-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead.
But a big turning point came early in the second quarter. With the Gators at the Krop 17 and threatening to make it 14-0, Hernandez underthrew a pass to the end zone and Armand Givens picked it off at the 5.
Krop quarterback Jacob Golan, who had a big night completing 18-of-30 passes for 225 yards and two scores, then engineered a 95-yard drive, hitting Giovanni Davis for a 15-yard score to tie the score at 7.
After the Lightning took a 14-7 lead on a 68-yard toss from Golan to Davin Derival, the Gators came right back with another long drive but made another huge mistake in the red zone when Joseph Jamaal fumbled and Givens was there to recover it at the Krop 15 just before halftime.
After the Gators tied the score with 3:26 left in the third when quarterback Anthony Fernandez found Valcarcel for a 26-yard touchdown score, Krop’s winning score came early in the fourth when Caporale rolled the dice on fourth-and-1 from the Gators’ 6.
Running back Antonio Smith rewarded his coach’s decision with a 6-yard touchdown up the middle to make it 21-14 with 10:18 left.
The Gators appeared to have tied it when Fernandez found Valcarcel again for a 13-yard score with 6:44 left. But the extra point was blocked by Antonio Ferguson, leaving the Lightning ahead by one.
Krop added a 26-yard field goal by Davin Derival with 2:46 left, which turned out to be huge. On their final possession, the Gators then drove down to the Lightning 15 with less than a minute left where a field goal could’ve won it, but instead it had to go for it on fourth down, setting the stage for Pendegrass’ heroics.
“Even though we came up on the short end tonight, how could anybody not say what a great game that was out there tonight,” Goleman coach Ariel Cribeiro said. “Both sides went at it like it was the Super Bowl out there and in essence it really was. Playing in this setup gave all of these kids a chance to experience something they would’ve never been able to do otherwise. They’re hurting right now. but tonight was something they’ll never forget.”