TAMPA — Gaither (2-1) overcame an early 12-0 deficit by forcing six turnovers and scoring 35 unanswered points to defeat Lennard (1-2) on Friday night.
The Longhorns took an early lead courtesy of a strong ground game. Lennard pounded the ball inside with junior running back Tino Hunt (26 carries, 164 yards) and struck first midway through the opening frame when Jah’tavis Philpart took a quarterback keeper around end for an 18-yard touchdown.
The Longhorns added to the lead on their next possession when Philpart (six carries, 46 yards) sped down the sideline for a 27=yard score.
The Cowboys answered on their next possession when junior quarterback Tony Bartolo hit Jeromy Reid (120 all-purpose yards) for a 35-yard touchdown on a wheel route on fourth down, cutting the lead to 12-7.
A momentum changing interception by junior safety/kicker Hunter Mintzer gave Gaither the ball at the 3-yard line, and a Reid touchdown three plays later gave the Cowboys a 14-12 lead going into halftime.
The Gaither defense again stepped up in the third quarter with senior safety Damien Lomeli returning a fumble 38 yards for a touchdown and Kobe Mcleod recovering another fumble to thwart a Lennard drive.
In the fourth quarter, an interception by 5-foot-8, 215-pound defensive tackle Thaylon Barros led to more points, as Bartolo (6-for-10, 111 yards, two touchdowns) connected with senior John Dietl (three receptions, 72 yards) to give Gaither a commanding 28-12 lead. The final points were courtesy of sophomore linebacker Willie Jackson on a 49-yard scoop and score.
"Lennard came out firing on all cylinders. They have a great offensive line and Coach (Matt) Kitchie is building something special down there," Gaither coach Kirk Karsen said. "Our kids got timely turnovers and timely stops. I’m really proud of them for stepping up tonight."