When Southern Durham football made its way down the field with ease on the opening drive of Thursday night’s game at Cardinal Gibbons, it seemed the Spartans’ undefeated streak against the Crusaders would continue.
Rather, the Crusaders struck back, and they struck quickly, scoring on each of their first two offensive plays en route to a 55-42 victory.
After Joey Strong Jr. opened the night with a 4-yard rushing score for Southern, Gibbons quarterback Anton Stoneking took over.
Nineteen seconds after Strong’s score, he hit Jack Biestek in stride for a 40-yard touchdown. Three-and-a-half minutes later ensuing a Spartan turnover, he hit Alex Kuzy in the right corner of the end zone for another six points.
“We wanted to come out and be real aggressive from the start knowing that Southern Durham can be absolutely electric on offense … and we knew we had to hit some plays early,” Gibbons coach Steven Wright said. “We built a little bit of a lead and gained some momentum.”
The powerhouse rushing tandem of Dalen Spruill and Jack Biestek then took over the game for the Crusaders, combining for 400 rushing yards on only 40 attempts.
“The offensive line played as good tonight as we’ve ever had an offensive line play in my six years,” Wright said. “They set the tone and the backs took advantage.”
The Spartans made a rally in the fourth quarter as quarterback Jalen Greene hit Montrel Cooper for two of his three receiving touchdowns and also torched the Crusader defense on a 25-yard rush.
However, inability to get stops on defense – Spruill and Brandon Henderson each scored for Gibbons in the final period – cut the comeback rally short.
“I promise you our defense will come back in much better shape,” Southern coach Darius Robinson said. “One thing, though, I’ll take away is that we didn’t quit. It was 27-7.”
Anton Stoneking’s 16-yard touchdown toss to Ebuka Ngwadom with 6:15 to go in the second quarter gave Gibbons a 27-7 lead, its largest of the night.
THREE TO KNOW
Dalen Spruill, Cardinal Gibbons: 25 rushing attempts for 245 yards and a touchdown.
“His lateral quickness is outstanding and his vision matches that lateral quickness,” Wright said. “I know he’s going to find that hole … and just burst.”
Jack Biestek, Cardinal Gibbons: 15 rushing attempts for 155 yards, six receptions for 84 yards and two total touchdowns.
“He’s an all-around athlete who can do a little bit of everything,” Wright said. “Maybe he’s our taller version of (Stanford running back) Christian McCaffrey … he’s a kid who can hit the edge and make somebody miss.”
Montrel Cooper, Southern Durham: Seven receptions for 187 yards and three touchdowns.
“Over the summer we looked at our receiver depth and we had to find some receivers to help us be successful,” Robinson said. “Montrel was a defensive back the past three years, but we saw his athleticism and told him ‘Montrel, you have to go both ways this year.’ He’s prepared to do it all season.”
BY THE NUMBERS
5: Players to score for Cardinal Gibbons
21.5: Yards per completion for Southern’s Greene, who finished 12-for-21 for 258 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
THEY SAID IT
“It’s big. We’ve played (Southern) six times in five years and we were 0-5 coming into tonight,” Wright said. “Fortunately, we got the win tonight. We’re 1-5, but I’ll take that ‘one’ tonight.”