The Gaither Cowboys (10-1) took down the Boca Ciega Pirates at home (6-5) in their Class 6A, Region 2 quarterfinal meeting. It was a high-scoring, penalty-filled game between the No. 1 and No. 8 seed, but Gaither was able to pull out the win and advance to the second round with a score of 47-27.
Gaither and Boca Ciega combined for over 300 yards in penalties, Gaither breaking 100 in the first half.
On Boca Ciega’s first play from scrimmage, Gaither’s defense forced a fumble and secured the recovery at the 14-yard line. Four offensive penalties later, Tony Bartalo met Jeff Duclos for a 25-yard gain. A quick, 1-yard quarterback sneak allowed Gaither to be first on the board.
A quick change of possession followed, as the Pirates forced a turnover of their own. Gaither knocked down two passes back-to-back to keep the Pirates from converting.
Gaither’s second TD came on a 36-yard drive finished off by Bartalo’s 11-yard completion to Josh Smith.
After a few non-scoring drives from both offenses, cornerback Jean Duclos intercepted a Pirate pass and returned it 27-yards for a pick-six. Hunter Mintzer’s PAT attempt bounced off of the left upright but the Cowboys extended their lead to 20-0 with just over nine minutes left in the first half.
Gaither’s momentum lulled near the end of the second quarter. Bartalo threw an interception while in Pirate territory and Mintzer missed two field goal attempts from 30 and 35 yards.
Boca Ciega finally found the end zone in the third quarter with Chris Phillips running 96-yards past Gaither’s defense for a TD.
On their next possession, Gaither drove into Pirate territory, helped by a defensive holding penalty to bring Gaither to the 39-yard line. Drelin “Speedy” Pittman cut his way up field for a 39-yard TD. Gaither led 26-7 after a failed two-point conversion attempt.
Gaither would go on to score three more times on a 15-yard pass to Pittman, a 1-yard rush by Bartalo and a 48-yard breakaway by Jayden Mendez. Phillips would make one more trip to the end zone for Boca Ciega and quarterback Taffrey Peterman would complete a TD pass in the final minutes of the game.
The Cowboys will face the Clearwater Tornadoes (8-2) in the Region 2 semi-final game next week at Death Valley Stadium. Clearwater defeated No. 4 seed Dixie Hollin by a score of 35-6 to advance to the semi-final.