Saturday, December 8, 2018
Lynn Ramsey - Florida Catholic
Photography: LYNN RAMSEY | FC
ORLANDO | Sidney Porter blocked a punt to steal momentum from North Marion, and Cardinal Gibbons quarterback Brody Palhegyi threw for a touchdown and ran for another Friday to help the Chiefs climb to the Class 5A state football championship with a 48-10 victory.
The Chiefs (13-2, No. 5 in The Associated Press’ Class 5A poll) won their first title in their second attempt. Cardinal Gibbons played in the 1990 final. North Marion (12-3, No. 10 in The AP’s 5A poll) lost in its first final appearance.
“It feels great, I love it,” said Cardinal Gibbons coach Matt DuBuc, who played on the 1990 state finalist. “I’m happy for our school, our program, our fans, our alumni. That’s why you do it.”
Palhegyi, a sophomore who has played the last three games in place of injured three-year starter Nik Scalzo, completed 10 of 16 passes for 138 yards. His 52-yard touchdown pass to Jake Harrington turned a 13-10 nailbiter into a 20-10 lead just before halftime.
“We knew coming into the game that their secondary was the strongest part of their defense,” Palhegyi said. “Vince helped us out on the running game. The guys up front did their job. Right then and there, the defense started shutting them down from there. That gave us confidence, and we took off and ran with it.”
Palhegyi credited Scalzo with preparing him for this game. “He’s a great role model for me. I’m very good friends with him. These last two years, even last year, he always mentored me to be the best person I could be.”
DuBuc said Palhegyi’s performance was a credit to the fact that he bided his time. “Nik was the guy for three years. You don’t get many reps in practice when your starting quarterback has played over 30 games. This young guy comes in. Unfortunately for him early in the season, we had a lot of running clocks even though he’s in at 35-0. The game’s over before you know it.
“He didn’t forget how to play football. He started on the JV and he was a heck of a player.”
The game swung when North Marion lost starting quarterback Corey Wilsher to an ankle injury midway through the first quarter. Quinton Gross entered and finished off a touchdown drive with an 11-yard touchdown run that put the Colts up 10-3.
Cardinal Gibbons held North Marion to 109 total yards. Yahweh Jeudy had 10 tackles, while Trevis Robinson had two sacks for the Chiefs. Majon Wright also picked off a pass for the Chiefs.
“When they got ahead, we felt like we had to come back and prove everybody wrong,” said Chiefs defensive end Khris Bogle, who had six tackles and a pass breakup. “When they scored with the backup, we came to the sideline and said, ‘He’s a running quarterback. We have to stay in front of him and not let him score.’”
Sidney Porter wrestled the momentum back for the Chiefs when he blocked a punt, then returned it 6 yards for a touchdown that tied the score 10-10 with 6:55 left in the first half.
“We saw the outside guy wanted to pick up our outside guy,” Porter said. “When our ends crashed down, that left a hole wide open.”
North Marion held Cardinal Gibbons to a 19-yard Daton Montiel field goal, which staved off the momentum shift until the Chiefs’ next drive. Palhegyi hit Jake Harrington on a quick slant route, which Harrington broke for a 52-yard touchdown with 50 seconds left in the first half.
After failing to score on its first possession of the second half, the Chiefs scored on their next four possessions. Vincent Davis, who scored two second-half touchdowns and ran for 133 yards on 20 carries, broke loose for a 49-yard touchdown run to put the Chiefs up 27-10. Then the rout was on.
“Their linebackers weren’t pursuing. It really opened up the run,” Davis said. “A lot of the time we spread the ball around. They couldn’t cover our receivers.”
Cardinal Gibbons ended the season on a 13-game winning streak after losing to Miami Central and Milton, Georgia, to open the season.
DuBuc said the team’s victory was a credit to their hard work – work that they’ve done all season. He said the seniors led the way.
“One thing I haven’t had to do is beat them,” DuBuc said. “They play a lot of seniors, and they played like it – battle-tested.”
Porter was glad to get a title for the school.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Porter, a Marshall University commitment. “The whole senior class wanted to win state. We got it on the last football game.”