Gaither Football (7-4) Finishes Season with Pride

Photo Courtesy of Ady Harvey ( on Instagram)

Rachel Slay, Staff Writer


Morale was high for the Gaither Cowboys (7-4, 4-2) as they traveled to Plant High School last night to take on the Panthers (10-1, 6-0) in the first round of the 2018 FHSAA Football Class 7A, Region 2 quarterfinals. Having come off a spectacular comeback against the Tampa Bay Tech Titans, their third consecutive win, the Cowboys were eager to face their opponent.

After a rough start with two consecutive false start penalties, quarterback Tony Bartalo pushed his offense to the red zone. Bartalo closed the five-minute opening drive with a 15-yard lob pass to receiver Jonny Dietl for the first score of the game. Almost immediately after, an interception allowed Hunter Mintzer to put up a 23-yard field goal making the Cowboy lead 10-0 with 4:12 left in the quarter.

Plant quarterback Tucker Gleason, alongside running back Walter Wilbon would, together, dominate the defense, collecting a total of 236 yards rushing and four TDs.

The Cowboys would not score again until late in the fourth quarter, making the final score 16-36, eliminating them from the race toward the state championship. Gaither’s offense was not able to move the ball as efficiently as in previous games, and according to Bartalo, that is what lost the game for them.

“Execution and penalties. At the Tech game we didn’t have very many penalties, but [last night] we had a whole bunch of delay of games and we had some missed assignments… that really set us back,” said Bartalo.

Gaither’s back to back playoff opportunity was meaningful to Bartalo, especially since he was able to lead them to this second appearance.

“It was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with a football team and I’m so thankful for it. We’re all brothers and that’s never going to change… this loss isn’t going to change the way we think of ourselves for this season,” said Bartalo.

Coming into this season, losing key players on both sides of the ball, it was a challenge to reshape the face of Gaither football. Senior linebacker Adam Valdes shared his thoughts on when things really clicked.

“We had groups, [but] after the Sickles game, that’s where we all came together as a unit, and that’s why we went on like a three-game win streak,” said Valdes.

Senior linebacker and captain Brysen Roth will surely be missed on defense come next year. Roth ended the season first in total tackles in Class 7A District 8 and only had positive things to say about his team.

“This team was a lot of unique individuals and to put it together was unique… we ended up coming together as one and started supporting each other, knowing that we could all play. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” said Roth.

The Gaither Cowboys finished the season with a winning record and heads held high.