PLANT CITY — Knocked out of the game early, quarterback Alexander McGough returned to deliver the knockout blow with a 66-yard touchdown pass to Shug Oyegunle with 1:30 left to give Gaither a 38-30 victory over Durant on Friday night.
The Cowboys advance in the Class 7A playoffs to face host Tampa Bay Tech, which beat Brandon 37-0.
Trailing 8-0 after a 4-yard touchdown run by Durant's Jamarlon Hamilton, McGough got sidelined for almost a full quarter after hitting his elbow on the top of a Durant defender's helmet while following through on a pass.
"It was probably the most pain I ever felt in my entire life," McGough said.
Oyegunle stepped in at quarterback for McGough, but Gaither's offense failed to put up any points while Durant marched to a 23-7 halftime lead. Gaither's only score came on a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown by Edward Pastrana midway through the second quarter.
The tide turned early in the third quarter as the Cowboys recovered a muffed punt at the Durant 22-yard line. On fourth and goal from the 3, McGough found Demarcus Sexil in the end zone for a touchdown. A successful two-point conversion cut the lead to 23-15.
The Cowboys outscored Durant 23-7 the rest of the way. After cutting the Durant lead to 23-21 on a 19-yard run by Oyegunle, Nick Fabrizio answered with a 62-yard touchdown run to extend the Cougars lead to 30-21.
Gaither's sophomore quarterback, however, engineered a remarkable fourth-quarter comeback.
McGough connected with Carlo Perello on a 58-yard touchdown pass to make it 30-28 with 7:45 left in the fourth quarter.
After Gaither forced Durant to turn the ball over on downs with 5:48 left, Dalton Gilson's 27-yard field goal a minute later put Gaither on top 31-30.
Shortly after Oyegunle's touchdown gave Gaither an 8-point lead, Tyler McCollum ended Durant's comeback bid with his second interception of the game with 1:05 left.