Southern beats Gibbons, will meet Orange in 3-AA Elite Eight Friday
Whoever said the Age of Miracles is over might want to rethink that pronouncement after the way Southern beat Cardinal Gibbons in a 33-28 shootout featuring stellar quarterbacks, high-octane offenses, and wild and wooly plays worthy of anybody’s highlight reel.
Southern advances to the third round of the state 3-AA football playoffs and will host Orange at 7:30 p.m. Friday in an Elite Eight battle of the Big Eight 3-A Conference champion — Southern — and runner-up, Orange.
Southern won the first meeting of the two teams.
“We pulled out a great win. We fought together, stayed together and came up with the Dub (W),” said speedy Southern senior wide receiver Maurice Trowell, an N.C. State commit, who caught breakaway scoring passes from quarterback Kendall Hinton of 48 and 20 yards. Hinton also had a pair of rushing TD’s.
“Like I told the kids, that’s epic right there. It shows we are a championship team,” Southern coach Adrian Jones said of the Spartans’ go-ahead score on Trowell’s second TD reception with 52 seconds left in the game to seal the deal.
“We’ve talked about this all year long,” Jones said. “There’s going to be a time comes in a game like this where we have to step it up, and our offense and our defense finished the game.”
Southern was hampered by a series of physical and mental miscues in the first half.
On their first play in their first series 5-foot-11, 170-pound junior running back William Cameron, a West Virginia commit, rushed for an easy 16 yards on a sweep but coughed up the ball. The Crusaders recovered at the 39, but despite a sustained drive were not able to capitalize.
When Southern got the ball back quarterback Kendall Hinton found a chink in the Crusaders’ armor. Nobody was keying on him and he was getting little pressure from the defense. He scampered for 20 and 19 yards on back-to-back plays, and scored on another keeper from 9 yards out at 6:48.
But Cardinal Gibbons senior quarterback Shawn Stankavage engineered an 11-play drive covering 82 yards, running it in on a keeper from 3 yards out to knot the score with 1:15 showing on the clock. He ran for 22 yards and passed for 35 more on the drive.
On the ensuing kickoff Trowell failed to cover the ball, and a Crusaders special team member jumped on it, giving them possession and first down at Southern’s 28-yardline.
Nine plays later, from 5 yards out, 5-foot-10, 190-pound senior running back Peyton Offnick plowed around end on a pitch from Stankavage to hit paydirt at 11:09 of the second quarter. A 2-point conversion attempt was stuffed.
The series had an unusual twist on a third down play when Cardinal Gibbons fumbled the ball, and Southern recovered it, but mishandled it and fumbled it right back to give the Crusaders a first down to boot.
After scoring, Cardinal Gibbons punched an onside kick, and recovered at the Spartans 48. Alternately using a no-huddle offense on some plays, Stankavage moved his team downfield as far as Southern’s 22 yardline, but that was as far as they reached, turning the ball over on downs.
Southern then marched the 73 yards to the Crusaders’ end zone, with Hinton again calling his own number and zipping in for the touchdown from 2 yards out to lead, 14-13 with 2:57 remaining until halftime.
Cardinal Gibbons went to the well one too many times, again trying the onsides kick to open the second half. Southern’s Tyler Herbert on the line pulled down the ball and raced 30-plus yards to the Crusaders 28-yardline. Jordan Brown carried it in from 4 yards out to make it 21-13.
Southern built further momentum on the next series, staging a goal line stand and denying the crusaders a TD after a 4th and 1 at the 1-yardline.
After Southern’s next drive stalled, Gregory Washington came in to punt, but pooched it just 6 yards, putting the Crusaders in excellent field position at their own 49. Stankavage moved them downfield in 10 plays, hitting wide receiver Dante DiMaggio for a wild 5-yard TD pass, and then a 2-point conversion pass to Wesley Wagner.
It appeared as though Stankavage was about to be sacked on 4th and 2, but the ball popped out of his grasp before he hit the turf. Stankavage leapt to his feet, picked up the ball, and hurled to DiMaggio for the score, to the bewilderment of the Southern defense.
Hinton then connected with Trowell down the sideline and there was nobody in the house who was going to stop his 48-yard TD romp. But Orozco missed the extra point, making it 27-21 with 10:05 to play.
“I saw the corner was playing me hard so I beat him off the line. We had a discussion earlier about getting off the corner and going deep, so I just knew as soon as I get off the ball to get going,” Trowell said.
Stankavage bulled up the middle for a 3-yard burst and six points at 6:29 of the final quarter, and Loy’s extra point gave the Crusaders back the lead at 28-27.
Cardinal Gibbons threatened again, moving the ball down to Southern’s 12-yard line. But the drive conked out and a 29-yard field goal attempt failed.
“When our defense made that stop there was no doubt in my mind that we were going to drive down and make a score because that’s what we’ve been doing all year,” Jones said.
Southern staged its improbable scoring drive from its own 12 with 3:16 remaining in the game, culminating with the 20-yard scoring strike from Hinton to Trowell on a crossing pattern to the left.
“Classic,” Jones said. “Definitely classic.”
SOUTHERN 33, CARDINAL GIBBONS 28
Cardinal Gibbons 7 6 8 7 — 28
Southern 7 7 7 12 — 33
Southern—Kendall Hinton 9 run (Leonardo Orozco kick) 6:48
Cardinal Gibbons—Shawn Stankavage 3 run (Brandon Loy kick) 1:15
Cardinal Gibbons— Peyton Offnick 5 run (conversion failed) 11:09
Southern—Hinton 2 run (Orozco kick) 2:57
Southern—Jordan Brown 4 run (Orozco kick) 11:01
Southern—Maurice Trowell 48 pass from Hinton (kick failed) 10:05
Cardinal Gibbons—Stankavage 3 run (Loy kick) 6:29
Southern—Trowell 20 pass from Hinton (conversion failed) :52
RUSHING — Cardinal Gibbons, Peyton Offnick 14-77, Shawn Stankavage 26-61, Earl Gill 1-6. Southern, Kendall Hinton 10-111, Jordan Brown 9-35, William Cameron 4-35, Toney Bass 3-11.
PASSING — Cardinal Gibbons, Shawn Stankavage 20-40-254. Southern, Kendall Hinton 16-25-297.
RECEIVING — Cardinal Gibbons, Earl Gill 10-128, Dante DiMaggio 7-64, Brandon Loy 3-23, James Sriraman 1-16, Chris Gorman 1-12. Southern, Maurice Trowell 9-188, Derrick Mason 7-109.
Records — Cardinal Gibbons 9-4. Southern 11-2.