RALEIGH — Cardinal Gibbons was on the verge of a most improbable comeback Friday when Wilson Hunt defensive back Malik Williams bursted the Crusaders’ bubble in the closing seconds of the Warriors’s 25-20 second round 3AA state playoff game victory.
Both teams entered the game 11-0, but it will be Hunt, which has played in the Eastern Finals the last two years, that will move on to face Cleveland next week.
Gibbons trailed 25-14 when it got the ball back with just 2:12 left in the game. Junior quarterback Dante Dimaggio took his team 80 yards and then scored on a one-yard run with just 37.7 seconds left to pull to within 25-20 after the try for two failed.
The Crusaders’ onsides kick bounced off Warrior Justin Jefferson and Crusader Robby Mohney recovered on the Hunt 48, giving the hometeam one more chance to score.
DiMaggio threw one incompletion. He then lofted a high toss downfield on the left side intended for Stepehn Boyle, but Williams jumped in front of Boyle, caught the ball, and came down on the four yard line, sealing the Warriors’ win.
"I could never be prouder of team than tonight," Gibbons coach Steven Wright said. "We battled a great Hunt team. We got ourselves in a hole with four turnovers, but battled back and had a chance to win. The end came down to what you would expect from two undefeated teams."
Gibbons jumped ahead 7-0 in the first minute of the game After Boyle returned the opening kickoff 85 yards, DiMaggio tossed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Zaruba.
Hunt had an answer in senior runner Josh Joyner, who scored three of his team’s touchdowns, on runs of three, 57, and 14 yards.
He ended the game with 221 yards and has over 2,200 yards on the season.
Gibbons played with quarterback Shawn Stankavage, who tore an ACL in last week’s 57-52 victory over Gray’s Creek. He is expected to have surgery on Tuesday and will miss the basketball season.
Wright knew Hunt would be a challenge and thought the game might come down to a key defensive stop.
Hunt ousted the Crusaders in last year’s third round.