Garhett King threw for 197 yards and two touchdowns and Craig Chapman accounted for 126 all-purpose yards and another touchdown as the St. Cloud Bulldogs (5-0) remained undefeated with a 32-14 home win over Gateway (0-5) on Friday night.
“Very thankful and very proud of our kids to get the win and stay undefeated,” Bulldogs coach Bryan Smart said. “It certainly wasn’t easy and this game was a lot closer than the scoreboard shows. Gateway has some really good players, they are well coached, and there is no quit in them.”
St. Cloud dominated the first half and moved the ball well between the twenty yard lines, but the Panther defense stiffened in the red zone and the Bulldogs had to settle on a pair of field goals of 24 and 28 yards from Noah Craig to take a 6-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Bulldogs offense caught fire to start the second half.
Going to quick short passes, King found his rhythm and hit five of six attempts in a 63-yard drive capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass to Romeo Medina.
“By getting the ball out of his hands faster, Garhett was able to get the ball to his playmakers in space and they were able to gain some chunk yardage after the catch,” Smart said.
Later in the quarter, St. Cloud upped the lead using some deception, as Koron Perrin took a backwards pass from King and hooked up with Hayden Taylor on a 51-yard completion. Two plays later King hit Patrick Forsyth for a 15-yard touchdown pass to make it 18-0. Perrin would finish the game with 10 catches for 85 yards to go with his 51-yard pass play.
Gateway would quickly answer the St. Cloud touchdown.
On the Panthers next possession, Jerry Wright flicked a short screen pass to Philip Bangura, who broke one tackle then ran untouched past four defenders for a 77-yard touchdown.
Bangura had another big game. Despite being keyed on by St. Cloud defenders all night, he rushed17 times for 54 yards, caught five passes for 132 yards and he also had an interception. He also returned the game’s opening kickoff 40 yards, being taken down by the last defender that prevented a touchdown.
“I feel sorry for Philip. We have a young inexperienced line and everyone we play knows he’s going to get the ball. That really makes it tough on him. Yet, he never complains, he never comes off the field and he’s always out there grinding,” Panthers Head Coach Marlin Roberts said.
“He’s terrific,” Smart said about Bangura. “He’s simply one of the best in the state. We made the mistake of kicking to him to start the game and he almost took it to the house. I made sure we did not make that mistake again.”
Leading 18-6, Chapman would set up the next St. Cloud score by taking a short punt at midfield and returning it 47 yards to the Gateway 2. One play later, Forsyth scored a 2-yard dive to make it 25-6.
After a Gateway drive stalled at the 29, St. Cloud would put the game away on its next series with an 8-play, 68-yard scoring drive capped by Chapman’s two-yard scoring run. King was three for three for 36 yards and Chapman also busted off a 23-yard run during the series.
Still Gateway fought to the end. Wright found Jakovi Bryant on a 35-yard touchdown pass as time was winding down for the final 32-14 margin.
“It’s been the same story all season long,” Roberts added. “Most of my best players on offense are also most of my best players on defense. We need to play those guys both ways and we simply do not have any depth and as the game goes on we wear down.”
Roberts added he again saw improvement in his team both on offense and defense.
“We completed some passes tonight and the ability to do that will take some pressure off of Philip,” Roberts said. “Our defense was solid in the first half. KyJaun (senior defensive tackle KyJaun Allen) is a real force for us. I’m just sorry both Philip and he are seniors and have so many young players around them.”
The win was just the third for St. Cloud in the last eight games against the Panthers. “This is a great rivalry game for both schools,” Smart added. “Coach Roberts and I are good friends and I think we both know what each other are going to try to do in a game. Regardless of the score, both sides know to expect a physical and intense game.”
Gateway faces Boone High School next week; while St. Cloud renews one of the oldest rivalries in the state of Florida, when it travels to Osceola to face the Kowboys for the 96th time.