TAMPA — Gaither earned its third straight playoff berth by beating Steinbrenner, but Cowboys coach Jason Stokes said it came at a cost.
“I lost half my hair in the last two minutes,’’ Stokes said. “That was a wild one.’’
Gaither seemed to have it sealed when quarterback Alex McGough scored on a 60-yard run with little more than a minute left to make it 35-23, but Jake Carroll returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards to keep Steinbrenner’s playoff hopes alive. Steinbrenner recovered the onside kick and tried two deep passes before Amani Oruwariye picked off a pass in the end zone to wrap up the playoff berth.
Stokes was happy with finishing second behind Sickles in the district, but he warned his team there is some work to do before its first-round game in two weeks.
“Once again we found a way to win,’’ Stokes said. “We can’t keep winning like this. Anything can happen in a playoff game.’’
Gaither struck first when McGough found Oruwariye with a 10-yard TD pass, but Steinbrenner scored twice to take a 14-7 lead before Jeff Suarez scored his third TD in two weeks to even it at the half.
Stein. 7 7 0 16 — 30
Gaither 7 7 7 14 — 35
G – Oruwariye 10 pass from McGough (Hobson kick)
S – Fitch 1 run (Stevens kick)
S – Carroll 91 pass from Fitch (Stevens kick)
G – Suarez 1 run (Hobson kick)
G – Washington 2 run (Hobson kick)
S – FG Stevens 41
G – Cochran 5 run (Hobson kick)
S – Barthel 23 pass from Fitch (pass failed)
G – McGough 60 run (Hobson kick)
S – Carroll 75 kick return (Stevens kick)