Broward High Schools

Despite loss to Ely, Cardinal Gibbons still in control

For Cardinal Gibbons, the dream of a perfect season is over, disappearing in stunning fashion.

But the Chiefs (7-1, 2-0) are still playoff-bound and have a chance Friday to avenge a horrific loss to American Heritage, a team that embarrassed Gibbons 70-19 last year.

Gibbons quarterback Peyton Bender, a Washington State recruit, said Saturday he is hopeful his team’s 16-10 upset loss to 3-5 Ely on Friday will serve as “a wake-up call.”

Ely won on a 1-yard touchdown run as time expired, shocking a Gibbons team that had beaten Miami Jackson 31-30 the previous week to clinch its playoff berth.

“We didn’t prepare well,” Bender said of the Ely loss. “We thought we were good coming off a big win. But we got outplayed and outcoached. They played harder than us.”

Bender said Washington State receivers coach David Yost came to Gibbons on Monday and watched game film with him from the Jackson game.

“He thought I played well,” Bender said.

A bad night

That certainly wasn’t the case against Ely, when Bender struggled throwing in windy conditions.

Bender, who entered the game with a 27-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio, was shut down. He completed 14 of 35 passes for 133 yards. He was also sacked six times, equaling the total of the previous seven games.

“They were blitzing a lot and disguising it,” Bender said. “We didn’t know where it was coming from. But we went over the film [Saturday] morning, and we were pretty critical of ourselves.”

The District 16-5A title will be on the line Friday when Gibbons hosts Heritage (8-1, 2-0).

Despite the loss, this has been a stellar season for Gibbons. Bender has passed for 2,081 yards, finding targets such as George Rushing, Christian Blake, Trevon Lee and Deon McIntosh.

The offense was averaging 42 points before Ely, and Bender already broke the 33-year-old school record for passing yards in a season.

The offensive line has been solid, featuring, from left to right, Matt Knick, Kadeem Smith, Trevor Martin, Joe Swiderski and Erik Lenzen. Knick, though, left the Ely game with an injury, and his status for Heritage is uncertain.

Gibbons is hoping for a big performance against a loaded Heritage team whose only loss is to powerhouse Miami Central.

Showing respect

“We know for sure that we won’t go into the Heritage game thinking we are too good,” Bender said. “We realize [now] that we can’t take any team lightly. We have to respect our opponent. We have to be more serious and more focused, and I think we will.”

Gibbons coach Mike Morrill sure hopes so. He said his team had opportunities on their first two drives against Ely and failed to capitalize.

“We got nothing out of our first two drives, and that set the tone,” he said. “We just had some misfires. Peyton would be off on one play, and then a receiver would drop a ball on the next.

“But we’ve got to put that disappointment behind us and look forward.”