Gib­bons aims for re­venge

Her­itage only team to beat them last year

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - SPORTS - By Wells Dusen­bury Staff writer wdusen­bury@sun-sen­tinel.com; On Twit­ter @dusere­port

Nik Scalzo re­mem­bers the Amer­i­can Her­itage games all too well.

Af­ter a 4-6 sea­son in 2015, Car­di­nal Gib­bons bounced back with an impressive nine-win cam­paign and suf­fered just two losses last sea­son — both to Amer­i­can Her­itage. The lat­ter, a 10-7 de­feat in the Class 5A re­gional semi­fi­nals, was es­pe­cially tough for the Gib­bons quar­ter­back con­sid­er­ing how close the Chiefs came to up­end­ing the even­tual 5A state champs.

“I was in class to­day and watched both of the games,” Scalzo said on Mon­day. “I’ve watched the play­off game seven or eight times fully — I’ve watched it a lot. It mo­ti­vates me more see­ing the plays I missed, be­cause I know I can come back this year and make those plays.”

To­day, Scalzo and the Chiefs have their chance at re­venge as they host the Pa­tri­ots in one of the state’s most heav­ily an­tic­i­pated games. Both teams are un­beaten and hold the top two spots in the AP’s Class 5A state rank­ings, with Her­itage at No. 1. The Pa­tri­ots are cur­rently ranked fourth in the na­tion by MaxPreps.

Af­ter an impressive de­but sea­son, Car­di­nal Gib­bons has con­tin­ued to im­prove un­der sec­ond-year coach Matt DuBuc. While the Chiefs (5-0, 2-0) are known for the high-pow­ered “Air Raid” of­fense, the de­fense has been dom­i­nat­ing op­po­nents this sea­son. Through five games, Car­di­nal Gib­bons has pitched three shutouts and al­lowed just 12 points.

The of­fense has also be­come more di­verse as the run­ning backs have stepped up in a ma­jor way, with Vin­cent Davis, Jor­dan Rig­gins and Ta­jae Davis all prov­ing ca­pa­ble of shoul­der­ing the load in the back­field.

One of the big­gest chal­lenges for Car­di­nal Gib­bons will be pen­e­trat­ing the Pa­tri­ots’ vaunted de­fense. Led by the na­tion’s top two cor­ner­back re­cruits – se­niors Pa­trick Sur­tain II and Tyson Camp­bell — Amer­i­can Her­itage (4-0, 1-0) has in­sti­tuted a no-fly zone on op­po­nents through­out the sea­son. Stand­out de­fen­sive line­men Nesta Sil­vera and An­drew Chat­field have made that job even more dif­fi­cult by con­stantly ha­rass­ing op­pos­ing QBs in the back­field.

Car­di­nal Gib­bons isn’t get­ting caught up in star rat­ings, though, as they pre­pare for Fri­day’s matchup — even with the Pa­tri­ots’ dom­i­nant one-two punch at cor­ner­back.

“I’m just look­ing at them like ev­ery other cor­ner­back and I’m com­ing in to do my thing,” said Car­los Sandy, the Chiefs’ lead­ing wide re­ceiver.

Last year was a tran­si­tion year of sorts for Car­di­nal Gib­bons as the team was break­ing in many young starters un­der a new head coach, but now they’re a much more bat­tle-tested squad.

“Last year I came into the game as a sopho­more and I was su­per ner­vous and had but­ter­flies,” Scalzo said. “My con­fi­dence level is up right now. I just don’t want to go 0-3 against Her­itage.”

While all eyes in Broward County — and across the state — will be on the show­down in Fort Laud­erdale, this likely will be the open­ing act as the teams will likely face each other once again in the play­offs. De­spite the likely rematch down the road, DuBuc said that won’t play a fac­tor in how they game plan for Amer­i­can Her­itage.

“We’re go­ing to do what­ever we can to win the game,” DuBuc said. “We’re not hold­ing any­thing back. What’s the point? We’ll worry about that when that one comes up.”

For­est Hill looks to up­end Dwyer

With­out a doubt, For­est Hill has been one of the big­gest sur­prises of the sea­son. The Fal­cons, who posted los­ing streaks of 37 and 43 games within the past two decades, sud­denly sit at 5-0 through mid­sea­son and are in the hunt for the District 13-7A ti­tle.

On Fri­day, For­est Hill (5-0, 2-0) will host what’s likely the big­gest game in school his­tory as the team wel­comes peren­nial power Dwyer. It’s been a down year for the Pan­thers (3-2, 2-1), who lost the bulk of their starters from last sea­son. While Dwyer isn’t as loaded as in pre­vi­ous years, they’re still a strong unit and come into the con­test as fa­vorites.

If For­est Hill can pull off the win, they’ll be just two wins away from a district ti­tle — some­thing no one pre­dicted be­fore the sea­son.

Plan­ta­tion, Western face off

An­other ma­jor show­down in Broward County will be between Western (6-0, 3-0) and Plan­ta­tion (5-1, 2-1), who are both vy­ing for the District 12-8A ti­tle. Af­ter a one-year coach­ing hia­tus, in which Plan­ta­tion fin­ished 2-7, the Colonels have re­turned to form un­der coach Steve Davis.

Western has been equally impressive in its un­beaten start to the sea­son. Quar­ter­back Har­ri­son Story and run­ning back Ke­shaun Clarke have been one of the county’s most po­tent onetwo punches.

Ridge aim­ing for district

Semi­nole Ridge (6-0, 2-0) looks to con­tinue its break­through 2017 cam­paign as it hosts district ri­val Palm Beach Cen­tral (3-2, 1-0). With a win over the Bron­cos, the Hawks would vir­tu­ally wrap up the district race, as only Jupiter — rid­ing a 31-game los­ing streak — re­mains on the sched­ule.

CAR­LINE JEAN/STAFF FILE PHOTO

Quar­ter­back Nik Scalzo will lead Car­di­nal Gib­bons against Amer­i­can Her­itage.

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