After a bruising and sluggish four quarters of penalties, trash talking, injuries and ejections, Gaither left Wesley Chapel with a 32-22 victory.
"It was a battle," Gaither coach Mark Kantor said. "They were fighting for their playoff lives and they played hard."
According to Wildcats coach John Castelamare, it wasn't hard enough.
"We didn't make the plays, we didn't do the job," Castelamare said. "We started off thinking everything was going to go well and it just didn't, and I think our players got down too fast from that."
Both teams made plenty of mistakes; they combined for 260 yards on 30 penalties, including five personal fouls and the ejection of a Wesley Chapel lineman.
The Wildcats (3-5, 0-2) trailed 26-7 at halftime.
"It was hard to get them up during that first half," Castelamare said. "Halftime we talked to them a little bit and they came out and played a little harder."
Wesley Chapel outscored Gaither (4-4, 2-0) 15-6 in the second half, but it wasn't enough to mount a serious comeback. The Cowboys were able to hold off the Wildcats despite Jarvis Giles' presence on the bench during the second half.
Giles took a monstrous hit in the end zone in the second quarter and was pulled from the game. There was speculation from the Wesley Chapel coaching staff that Giles lost consciousness, but Kantor said he was fine and was unsure if he did get knocked out.
Friday's game may determine the playoff future of both teams.
"This bunch is so seasoned," Kantor said. "This was a playoff game on the line. I just think our veterans know how to play a game like this."