American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) has been able to rely on its defense for most of the season. On Friday, the Patriots needed the arm and legs of quarterback Cameron Smith to rally for a 58-57 three-overtime defeat of Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale) in the 5A-Region 4 championship.
Smith, a 6-5 senior, passed for five touchdowns and ran for two as No. 4-ranked American Heritage improved to 11-0. The Patriots play Immokalee next Friday in a state 5A semifinal. The Chiefs fall to 11-2 with their second season-ending loss to the Patriots over the past two seasons.
Cardinal Gibbons looked as if it would pull off the shocker of the season when it took a 27-6 lead in the second quarter over the Patriots, who came into the game allowing less than nine points a game.
Led by Smith, American Heritage scored 35 unanswered points to take the lead, but the Chiefs were far from over. Illinois commit Ron Hardge III scooped up a fumble and ran 26 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 41 with two minutes to go.
The Chiefs ended American Heritage’s attempt at a game-winning 39-yard field goal because of difficulty with the hold and in overtime, Cardinal Gibbons struck first on a 2-yard touchdown run by Tajae Davis, his second touchdown of the game. Smith responded, connecting with Josh Alexander on an 8-yard touchdown pass to send the game into a second overtime.
The Chiefs forced the Patriots to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Jimmy Lowery in the first possession of the second overtime, but American Heritage’s defense was also solid, so Cardinal Gibbons’ Dalton Montiel kicked a 29-yard field goal to send the game into a third overtime at 51-all.
On the first series of the third overtime, Vincent Davis ran it in on first down, but Montiel’s extra-point was blocked. That play was the difference as Anthony Schwartz caught a pass from Smith for Schwartz’s third touchdown of the game. Lowery’s extra point was good and Heritage escaped with a wild victory.
The Chiefs took a 7-0 lead when Vincent Davis reversed field for a 3-yard touchdown run on his team’s second series and Montiel made the extra point for the Chiefs.
American Heritage trimmed that to 7-6 when Smith hit Anthony Schwartz with a 25-yard touchdown pass, but the extra point was blocked. Cardinal Gibbons’ Marquis Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards and one play later, Vincent Davis ran it in from the 5-yard line to give Gibbons a 14-6 lead with another Montiel point-after.
Cardinal Gibbons quarterback Nik Scalzo, off a reverse flea flicker, found Tajae Davis for a 55-yard touchdown pass for a 20-6 lead with 3:33 remaining in the half. On the Patriots’ next series, Sydney Porter blocked a punt and returned it 16 yards to give the Chiefs a 27-6 lead.
Then the Patriots began to play again like the No. 4 team in the country.
Schwartz returned a kickoff 79 yards for a touchdown and trimmed Gibbons’ lead to 27-13 with 1:37 left in the half. Moments later, Smith connected with Marcus Lodge for a 19-yard touchdown pass and suddenly, what was looking like a rout was a game again at 27-20 just 16 seconds before the half.
Early in the third quarter, Smith’s 1-yard touchdown run tied the score at 27 and the Patriots had all of the momentum going their way.
Smith put American Heritage on top for the first time with 2:08 to go in the third quarter. From the Chiefs’ 7-yard line, Smith rolled out right, then threw back left deep in the corner of the end zone and Beau Johnson came down with it for a touchdown. With the extra point, the Patriots led 34-27.
Smith made it 41-27 on a 1-yard quarterback sneak with 5:55 to go in the fourth quarter. Scalzo hit LaVonte Decius with a 4-yarder to end Heritage’s scoring spree, and cut the lead to 41-34 with 2:30 to go in the game.