Sweet 16 No. 1 Cardinal Gibbons stops No. 5 Leesville Road in high-powered opener

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Steve Lyttle
·3 min read
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Cardinal Gibbons prefers to play a wide-open offense, but the Crusaders can grind it out when they have to.

That’s the approach they took in the second half Thursday night, and it turned out nicely in a 21-8 Cap 7 4A road victory over Leesville Road.

“It was a bit unusual, compared to our normal style,” Cardinal Gibbons coach Steven Wright said, after his team’s defense shut down the Pride in a meeting of teams that reached state championship games in 2019.

“It turned into sort of a slugfest,” Wright said.

In the end, the game was decided by a couple of big-yardage Cardinal Gibbons plays — and some costly mistakes by Leesville Road.

On its second possession, the Pride lost a fumble at its 18. On the next play, Crusaders’ sophomore quarterback Connor Clark lofted a touchdown pass to Blake Wynia.

Leesville Road’s defense tightened up after that, with junior defensive back Anthony Jemerson and junior linebacker Tyler Lassiter each making fourth-down stops against the Crusaders.

Late in the first quarter, the Pride finally got its offense going, thanks to a 37-yard pass from Ethan Burchfield to Nasir Winston. The drive stalled at the Cardinal Gibbons’ 16, but Leesville Road’s attempt to cut the deficit to 7-3 went up in smoke on a bad snap on a field-goal try.

Cardinal Gibbons built its lead to 14-0 a minute before halftime on a 65-yard pass from Clark to senior Brock Biestek.

“In the second half, we decided to possess the ball, grind out the clock,” Wright said.

The Crusaders frequently ran a Wildcat offense, with Biestek taking a direct snap from center.

“Brock had a phenomenal night,” Wright said. “It came down to our offensive line being able to impose its will, and Brock’s offense.”

Leesville Road got on the scoreboard midway in the third quarter, with Burchfield’s 1-yard plunge capping a 58-yard drive.

The Cardinal Gibbons defense picked off a pair of Pride passes in the final quarter, while the offense ran the ball and ate up the clock.

Three who mattered

Brock Biestek, Cardinal Gibbons: A 6-2 senior who normally plays at wide receiver, Biestek took some snaps at quarterback and finished with 91 yards rushing and 68 receiving yards. He scored two touchdowns.

Tyree Hunter, Leesville Road: Hunter, a 5-7 senior, provided the Pride with its biggest yardage plays Thursday night. He returned one kickoff for 45 yards and another for 38 yards.

Michael Hrehor, Cardinal Gibbons: A 5-8 senior safety, Hrehor had an interception and at least four pass breakups.

Worth mentioning

The game’s most remarkable series came early in the third quarter. Penalties and a sack left Cardinal Gibbons with a third-and-46 from its 4 — and the Crusaders converted. Clark scrambled 33 yards on third down, and then a roughing-the-punter penalty gave the Crusaders a first down. Biestek ran 48 yards for a touchdown on the next play.

Weeks of persistent rain have taken a toll on athletic fields across the Carolinas, and it was no different at Leesville Road. The field was muddy in spots, but the turf appeared to be solid. “They worked hard to keep that field in shape,” Wright said of the Leesville Road staff.

Each team fumbled three times, with Cardinal Gibbons losing one and Leesville Road two.

Moving the game ahead one night in the schedule probably paid off. Rain and temperatures in the mid-40s are expected Friday night. But the two teams competed under mostly clear skies and temperatures in the upper 50s Thursday.

What’s next?

Cardinal Gibbons hosts Wake Forest in a nonconference game next Friday. Leesville Road travels next Friday to CAP 7 4A foe Sanderson.

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle

Summary

Cardinal Gibbons 7 7 7 0 — 21

Leesville Road 0 0 8 0 — 8

CG: Blake Wynia 18 pass from Connor Clark (Gray Carter kick)

CG: Brock Biestek 65 pass from Clark (Carter kick)

CG: Biestek 48 run (Carter kick)

LR: Ethan Burchfield 1 run (Burchfield run)