Unbeaten Gaither remains remarkably balanced

The passing game is on point as usual, while the defense gets its first shutout of the season against Land O’ Lakes.
High school football players around Tampa Bay were in action Friday night in Week 8 of the season.
High school football players around Tampa Bay were in action Friday night in Week 8 of the season. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Oct. 12, 2019

TAMPA — Gaither took another step toward its first district championship since 2012, scoring early and often in a dominant 40-0 win over Land O’ Lakes on Homecoming Friday night.

Sophomore Drelin “Speedy” Pittman rushed off tackle for a 28-yard score on Gaither’s second play from scrimmage.

On the next series, it was junior outside linebacker Willie Jackson picking off quarterback Ethan Forrester and setting the Cowboys (6-0, 2-0) up in great field position. Five plays later, senior quarterback Tony Bartalo (8-of-12, 98 yards, three touchdowns) connected with Pittman (73 all-purpose yards) from 9 yards out for a 13-0 lead.

The Gators (1-6, 1-1) fumbled on the subsequent kickoff and two plays later USF commit Chance Coleman sped around the left end and bulled through a pair of Gator defenders near the goal line for a 20-yard touchdown and a 19-0 lead less than six minutes into the game.

Later in the quarter, it was Bartalo connected with Jeff Duclos on a 9-yard touchdown.

“Tony is playing at an all-state level right now Some college is going to get an amazing football player,” Gaither coach Kirk Karsen said.

In the second quarter, Coleman again found the end zone, this time outracing the entire Land O’ Lakes defense on an 84-yard touchdown run. The 6-foot-2, 208-pound senior finished with 104 yards and two touchdowns on two carries.

Bartalo found senior Korey Williams on a 1-yard slant near the end of the second quarter for a 40-0 lead.

While the offense provided the fireworks, Karsen was equally as happy with his team’s defensive effort as the Cowboys pitched their first shutout of the year.

“We have an aggressive defense that flies around, and they thrive on playing physical. They are tough to go against every day in practice," he said. "One of the reasons that we are having such a great year on offense is that we get a great look going against those guys every day. They make us better because they are so fast and physical.”

The Cowboys have a chance to wrap up Class 6A, District 6 in two weeks at Freedom, a game sandwiched in between a pair of tough non-district contests vs. Tampa Bay Tech next week and Armwood in the season finale.

Land O’ Lakes will look to regroup next week as they host Wiregrass Ranch.