Gaither stampeded all over the field all game long, running at Hillsborough, piling up yards until the fatal turnover with 5 minutes left.
TAMPA - Run right. Run left. Run up the middle. That was Gaither's game plan all night.
It worked brilliantly for 43 minutes Friday night as Gaither marched toward the Hillsborough end zone for a possible game-winning touchdown.
But Hillsborough senior middle linebacker Jezreel Ortiz made sure the Cowboys didn't reach their destination. Ortiz recovered a Willie Rose fumble at the Terrier 34 with 5 minutes remaining to preserve Hillsborough's 21-17 victory on homecoming and senior night at Chelo Huerta Field.
Hillsborough, the Class 5A, District 8 champion, remained unbeaten at 8-0 and 5-0.
Gaither (4-4, 2-3) played keep away as it attempted to avenge last year's 49-0 loss. It almost worked. Hillsborough was limited to only six possessions in the game and Rose ran for 162 yards on 26 carries.
The Cowboys enjoyed leads of 7-0, 10-7 and 17-14, highlighted by a 99-yard, 11-play drive in the third quarter as John Chesnut connected with Chris Bonner on a 39-yard touchdown pass.
Hillsborough came back each time. The Terriers went up 21-17 as running back Jimmy Sapp (121 rushing yards) scored from the 2 with 6 minutes remaining. Hillsborough's decisive drive covered 65 yards and featured a fourth-and-1 running conversion by quarterback Jarred Fayson, who scored twice on the ground.
But Gaither wasn't finished. The Cowboys started another drive and Rose broke loose for his longest gain of the night, a 22-yarder that advanced the ball to Hillsborough's 34. Rose fell awkwardly on the play when he was tackled, lost the ball and Ortiz made his first fumble re Ortiz said a lesson learned from Coach Earl Garcia paid dividends.
"Coach always tells us to run to the ball and good things will happen," Ortiz said. "That's what I did. Up to that point, Gaither was running the ball down our throats."