Cardinal Gibbons quarterback Nik Scalzo still feels the sting of last year’s regional final.
He helped will his team to 14-point comeback and three overtime periods..
All the effort, all the pain, all the emotion on that late November Friday night just to get the same end result.
Once again, Plantation American Heritage got the better of Cardinal Gibbons — this time in a 58-57 shootout — and left the Chiefs one step away from reaching states. Heritage went on to win the state title after a second straight perfect season. Cardinal Gibbons was left wondering when they will finally come away with a win against the biggest competition in their district.
“I’m 22-4,” Scalzo said. “The four losses are to American Heritage.”
That changes this year, Scalzo proclaimed.
This year, his senior year, his final year in Cardinal Gibbons red and white, will be the year they finally break through against Heritage, punch their ticket to Orlando and make a run at the Class 5A state title.
“All I know is I’m not losing to them again,” Scalzo said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
It’s the one blemish on his otherwise illustrious high school career. Scalzo, a University of Kentucky commitment and the highest-rated quarterback in Broward County according to the 247Sports Composite ranking, is coming off a junior season in which he completed 57 percent of his passes for 2,065 yards and 23 touchdowns with just six interceptions.
He’s undersized for a quarterback at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds but makes up for that with talent and unwavering confidence.
“His resume speaks for itself,” said Gibbons coach Matt DuBuc, who has known Scalzo since the quarterback was in middle school. “He’s going to lead our team. He’s our quarterback. That’s what quarterbacks do.”
Added senior tight end and fellow Kentucky commit Nikolas Ogenovic: “He’s a playmaker. He gets everything done.”
Scalzo is now hoping that culminates with the perfect finish, one that would have him leading Gibbons to its first state football title — or, at the very least, the program’s first championship game appearance since 1990.
“I’m going out with a bang,” he said.
That means a strong start to a grueling regular-season schedule, one that has Gibbons opening against Miami Central on Friday night before traveling to Georgia for a game against Milton.
And yes, that means beating Heritage in their regular-season matchup on Oct. 12, which will be played at Heritage, and also likely having to defeat the Patriots at some point in the early round of the state playoffs.
“We have to go out and win,” Scalzo said. “That’s the only thing about it.”
Scalzo won’t have to do it alone, though. The Chiefs have talent scattered throughout their roster.
Running back Vincent Davis will serve as a vital cog in the backfield after rushing for 942 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Ogenovic, at 6-foot-7, also has the potential to be a mismatch for defenses down the middle of the field.
“We’re not a one-dimensional team,” DuBuc said. “We can run it. We can pass it. We can disguise different packages. ... As a coaching staff, that’s going to be our biggest challenge: Getting the playmakers the ball in different situations. They all know what they’re doing at this point now. It’s about coaching and getting them in the right spot.”
And then there’s the defense, which will start and end with Khris Bogle. The 6-5, 220-pound rush end is one of the premier recruits in the country, ranked as the No. 7 player in the state of Florida and No. 58 overall in the country regardless of position, according to the 247Sports composite. As a junior, Bogle racked up 70 tackles (23 for loss) and had 13.5 sacks and two safeties.
“His ceiling, we’re not even close,” DuBuc said. “He’s going to wreak havoc for offenses, especially on third down. We’re looking for him to be our guy. … He’s growing up and becoming a man. It’s easy to fall in the trap with all these recruiters telling you how good you are, but he didn’t rest. That has driven him to become a better player.
“It’s going to be a long time before we have another Khris Bogle, but I’m telling you, I’m glad he’s on our team.”
The pieces are there to make a playoff run.
But making sure all those pieces work together will be the real challenge.
Scalzo, the team’s de-facto leader, is putting himself in charge.
“My leadership has definitely upped since I was a freshman,” Scalzo said. “My work ethic, my dedication. I see us going to states this year. That’s the No. 1 thing on our mind right now. We do take it game by game but overall that’s the No. 1 goal.”
NOTE: The Miami Herald is now offering a digital sports-only subscription for $30 per year. This is unlimited access to all Herald sports and sports stories, thus allowing you to comment in the section below as many times as you wish. Click right here to get started immediately.