Aug 18, 2012
A game of inches, indeed.
The Clayton Comets were right there Friday night in the waning moments against Cardinal Gibbons, driving down the field with less than a minute trailing 20-15. Seconds later, when Clayton quarterback Sam May hit a streaking Cedric Harris up the home sideline for a 60-yard touchdown, the Comets thought they had completed an impressive comeback against the talented Crusaders.
Amid the excitement, many didn't notice the flag on the field indicating that May had crossed the line of scrimmage before uncorking the pass. Clayton head coach Gary Fowler did, and when he realized that his team wouldn't win its home opener, he fell to the field face first for five seconds.
The penalty, one of several on the night for the Comets, allowed Cardinal Gibbons to escape with a 20-15 win despite three turnovers and several missed opportunities of its own.
"I thought that was it, I thought they scored and the game was over," Cardinal Gibbons head coach Steven Wright said. "We are very fortunate to get out of here with a win."
Quarterback Shawn Stankavage (9-14, 143 yards passing, 1 TD, 12 rushes, 105 yards, 2 TD) and running back Ben Grazen (17 carries, 137 yards) were a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield for the Crusaders, combining for 385 total yards from scrimmage and all of the team's touchdowns.
Cardinal Gibbons opened the scoring on the first play of the second quarter, when Stankavage hit Stephen Boyle from nine yards out. That lead grew to 13-3 late in the first half when Stankavage took one in from 21 yards out.
Stankavage's second touchdown run, a 58-yard touchdown option with 39 seconds left in the third quarter, put Cardinal Gibbons up 20-15 and proved to be the deciding score of the night after Clayton had bounced back from a 13-3 deficit in the first half to take a 15-13 lead.
"The offensive line did a great job tonight," Grazen said. "Shawn was able to take control on the option plays. He's a great runner and passer so it makes it difficult on the defense."
Clayton's run-oriented offense was also impressive, but three fumbles (two in the second half) kept the Comets from taking advantage of Cardinal Gibbons' mistakes.
Fullback Jace Brown led the way for Clayton, totaling 74 yards on 11 carries. Tam Barbour was close behind with 66 yards on 14 attempts. After a slow start, the Comets grabbed a 15-13 lead with 3:12 left in the third quarter when Harris scampered in from three yards out.
Following the emotional ending, Fowler credited Cardinal Gibbons and said his team has a chance to learn from the mistakes throughout the game and at the end.
"The coaches said it was right there at it," Fowler said of the final penalty. "It was just the way it went tonight. I'm proud of my kids, they tried to come back. They thought they had a way, but it just didn't happen."