Gilbert holds off Gray Collegiate
By Thomas Grant Jr.
The fans at Tomahawk Stadium itching for football after last year’s historic season at Gilbert were treated to a dominating start Friday night.
The host team Indians opened up a 21-0 lead over visiting Gray Collegiate in the season-opener at Leonard Price Field. The War Eagles, however, made the contest more of a nail-biter for the Indian faithful in rallying to within a touchdown.
A third touchdown run by DeAndre Cook would provide the necessary cushion as Gilbert held on for a 35-28 win. Cook finished with 168 rushing yards to go with his three scores in earning Player of the Game honors. The game was the season-opener for the Sonic Friday Night Rivals on WACH-57.
It was the 11th straight regular-season win for the Indians (1-0) and 11th consecutive regular-season home victory. Gilbert improved to 23-3 under head coach Chad Leaphart and 14-1 at home.
“We got out to a fast start but Gray fought their way back into it and made it a dogfight,” Leaphart said. “We definitely have some things to work on, but I’m proud of how my guys responded when the game got tight.”
The Indians scored on its first three possessions in the first half. On the first series, Josh Strickland found a wide open Wells Sykes for a 32-yard touchdown pass. The next two series ended with touchdown runs of five and two yards by Cook. Randojh Cheema connected on all five of his PATs in making it 21-0 in the second quarter.
With 3:15 left, quarterback Hunter Helms found Nykeem Smith for a 5-yard touchdown to cut the Indians’ lead to 21-7. The War Eagles (0-1) scored on the opening drive of the second half as Julian Jackson rushed in from 22 yards to close the gap.
Gilbert answered with a 6-yard touchdown run by senior Cody Temples to make it 28-14. Nearly 73 seconds left, Helms found a diving Smith for a 25-yard touchdown to bring the War Eagles to within a touchdown.
Gray Collegiate had a potential drive thwarted by an interception by Drew Howell. The War Eagles would not score again until after Cook’s third touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 6-yard run by Jackson with 3:38 left.
First-down runs by Cook and Temples helped Gilbert run out the clock.
Up next for Gilbert is a road trip to archrival Batesburg-Leesville. Gray Collegiate will face Swansea at a site to be determined.