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Gaither faces Lakeland in next round of playoffs

The Cowboys tonight take on the state's No. 1 team. The Dreadnaughts have won 30 consecutive games and two 5A titles. The Cowboys tonight face the state's No. 1 team. The Dreadnaughts have won 30 straight.

By ROD GIPSON,Times Correspondent
Published November 17, 2006


It may have taken almost every second plus some late-game heroics to pull it out, but Gaither did advance to the second round of the state playoffs after its 17-10 victory at Alonso.

Running back Jarvis Giles and quarterback John Chestnut did not enter the game until about the nine-minute mark of the second quarter, both serving brief suspensions after violating unspecified team rules during the week.

Their absences were felt as Alonso built a 10-0 lead early in the contest. But that was before Giles' first carry went for 79 yards and a touchdown. But he saved his best for last, racing 60 yards for the winning touchdown with 57 seconds left on the clock.

"It wasn't easy," said Gaither coach Mark Kantor, comparing the win to his team's 31-0 win against the Ravens during the regular season.

"When you compare this to the last time we played, we knew we were in for a tough game.

"They were physical. They hit us in the mouth, and then it was a dogfight."

On his way to saving the day, Giles rolled up 176 yards on 13 carries in addition to his two huge touchdowns.

So what's Gaither's reward?

A trip to Lakeland to face the state's - and USA Today's - No. 1 high school football team, the Lakeland Dreadnaughts.

The team has won two straight Class 5A titles, winning 30 straight games along the way.

Lakeland has scored 40 points or more five times this season and its defense has held teams below 10 points seven times, including a 78-0 thumping of Lakeland George Jenkins.

"They are a great team," Kantor said. "We're proud to go over there and face them."

With Alonso and Freedom falling (21-13 to Winter Haven), that leaves Jefferson and Chamberlain also still in the playoffs.

All kickoffs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Gaither (7-4) at Lakeland (11-0)

LAST WEEK: Gaither beat Alonso 17-10; Lakeland beat Brandon 49-6.

PREVIOUS MEETING: This is their first meeting.

THE SKINNY: The Cowboys now get the unenviable task of going up against Lakeland. They'll use a steady dose of running back Jarvis Giles. The Dreadnaughts may be without their top runner as Chris Rainey injured a shoulder last week against Brandon.

THE EDGE: Lakeland. Enough said.

Chamberlain (6-5) at Lake Gibson (9-2)

LAST WEEK: Chamberlain beat Land O'Lakes 31-22; Lake Gibson beat Plant City 19-6.

PREVIOUS MEETING: This is their first meeting.

THE SKINNY: Chamberlain's improbable year keeps on going after the Chiefs topped the Gators on the road last week. Chamberlain running back Kenny Allen was nearly unstoppable against Land O'Lakes, surpassing 200 yards on the ground. Lake Gibson may be forced to run the ball as starting quarterback Breshawn Barnes is out with ankle and foot injuries.

THE EDGE: This may be the week when Chamberlain's magic finally runs out. Lake Gibson has won seven in a row and should push it to eight.

Armwood (10-1) at Jefferson (9-2)

LAST WEEK: Armwood beat Hillsborough 32-7; Jefferson beat Bradenton Southeast 31-28.

PREVIOUS MEETING: Armwood beat Jefferson 13-6 in mid September.

THE SKINNY: In its first meeting with Jefferson, Armwood scored early and then managed to hold off Jefferson's Stephen Garcia-led comeback attempt. Garcia is arguably the most talented quarterback in our area and he'll be facing one of the best defenses in Class 4A.

THE EDGE: Can the Dragons end the Hawks' run at a third state title in four years? Yep - Jefferson wins.