TAMPA — A big defensive takeaway and a solid special teams' play set Gaither on its way to a game in which the final score, 28-0 over Chamberlain, looked like it was an easy notch in the win column.
However, Cowboys head coach Jason Stokes and his assistant coaches will have plenty of things to remedy in the short week leading up to facing Newsome on Friday.
“We can't win pretty,” Stokes said.
The Chiefs and Cowboys combined for 30 penalties in the game that at one point had four different penalties called on Gaither on the same play.
“We are not disciplined, we're far from disciplined,” Stokes said. “We have to show up, put together drives, finish plays and cut down on the penalties. The penalties absolutely crushed us.”
After an Elijah Hudnell interception ended the Chiefs' opening drive, Gaither quarterback Alex McGough led the Cowboys on a three-play scoring drive punching his way into the end zone from 2 yards out. The Cowboys' special team unit got a hand on the punt on Chamberlain's next drive, setting up solid field position in Chiefs territory and an eventual 11-yard Jalen Cochran scoring run.
After those two drives led to a quick two-touchdown lead in the opening quarter, McGough admitted after the game the team might have come out and ridden an emotional high that crashed into some staleness on offense the rest of the half.
“We came into this game thinking it was going to be a great game and then we scored two easy touchdowns,” McGough said. “I think after that we let back a little.”
McGough finished with just 101 passing yards, one touchdown pass, two fumbles and an interception, and was critical of his performance.
“I'm not happy at all, an interception and two fumbles is probably my worst game of my high school career,” he said.
Luckily for the Gaither QB, the Chiefs' offense never seemed to get things going in the game. Chamberlain QBs combined for just two completions in 12 tries. Running back Dakarai Highsmith carried most of the load, finally eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the game late in the fourth quarter.
Though penalties were an issue for the Gaither defense, the unit did stop Chamberlain late in the game after setting the Chiefs up with a first down on the 5-yard line.
Hudnell mixed in two sacks with his early interception and Amani Oruwariye looked solid with an interception and a touchdown catch.