Cardinal Gibbons’ quest for a second straight state championship couldn’t have started any better. The Chiefs began their first offensive drive in Monsignor Pace territory after a squib kick led to a long kick return and they needed only four plays to find the end zone. Three defensive plays and a punt return later, Cardinal Gibbons was on the board again.
It took less than two minutes for the Chiefs to build a two-touchdown lead Friday in Fort Lauderdale and Cardinal Gibbons never trailed on its way to a 56-26 win against the Spartans in the Region 4-4A quarterfinals at Dr. Bud Tight Field.
The Chiefs, the No. 3 seed in the region, advance to face No. 2-seed University, which had a bye to the region semifinals.
Cardinal Gibbons’ offensive eruption was fueled by its balance. The Chiefs (9-2) took a 35-14 lead into the second have and five different players scored touchdowns. Quarterback Brody Palhegyi opened the scoring with an 11-yard scramble before defensive back Antonio Spencer fielded a short punt off a bounce and ran it back for a touchdown to give Cardinal Gibbons a 14-0 lead just 2:17 into the game.
“I’m really pleased with the way we played on offense,” Chiefs coach Matt DuBuc said. “I’m not pleased with the way we played on defense.”
Jake Harrington added a 50-yard touchdown catch later in the quarter, fellow wide receiver Troy Stellato caught a 1-yard touchdown early in the second and running back Coleman Bennett ran for a 4-yard touchdown with 2:34 left in the half to give Cardinal Gibbons a commanding lead heading into the break.
Palhegyi added a third touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and the Spartans (5-6) never pulled closer than 16 in the second half as seven different players wound up scoring touchdowns for Cardinal Gibbons.
“He’s been a great player for now a full season. He’s efficient, he’s not flashy,” DuBuc said. “I think we’re a complete offense.”