Two 1-4 teams, both ranked in the preseason top 10, fought tonight trying to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Gilbert capitalized early on a Corona error to take a 7-0 lead. Corona QB Chase Cartwright fumbled the ball and Gilbert recovered at the 12 yard line. It took the Tigers just one play to score as QB Brandon Bialkowski hit Jesse Brantley on a fade in the corner of the endzone.
Cartwright redeemed himself two series later, getting hot and hitting Michael Lange and Billy Johnson on a drive that concluded when he found Austin Crothers in the back of the end zone. 7-7.
The Corona D forced a punt and it looked like the offense might go down and score again. Cartwright hit Crothers for a 30 yard gain to get the Aztecs on the right side of the 50. A bad snap but Corona in 3rd and 18 and Cartwright was picked off by Brantley. The Tigers then battled out of their own territory to get on the baord again and take a 14-7 lead into the half. Bialkowski hooked up with Drew Stankiewicz for a 23 yard gain and Brantley for a 20 yard scoring strike. But the biggest play of the drive may have been Greg Esquibel's conversion on 4th and 1 to keep the drive alive.
The game remained tight through the last ticks of the clock in the second half.
Corona tied it up on their second drive with Lange running for the score after a Cartwright to Billy Johnson 37 yarder.
The Tigers were quick to match. Bialkowski hooked up with Brantley five times on the next series and Dylan Verry put them up once again on a short TD run.
The fourth quarter looked to be all Aztecs as they capitalized on errors to take their first lead of the game. Johnson intercepted a pass and on the very next play, Cartwright found Kyle Benson on a 50+ yard scoring strike. Gilbert got sloppy, stalled on the drive with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that helped give Corona good field position after the punt. Several Lange runs and a pass interference call ept the Aztecs marching and Lange raced in from 20 yards out. Corona was now up 28-21 late in the 4th.
Bialkowski did not look a bit nervous on the next series, hitting multiple receivers and quickly getting the Tigers into the redzone. The key play was when Bialkowski floated a ball to Stankiewicz just out of the reach of Benson's hand to get GHS to the 3 yard line on a 3rd and 18 play.
Bialkowski got the good push from his o-line and scored on a QB sneak with under 2 minutes to play. Instead of going for the tie, Gilbert head man Dan Dunn went for the win and was succesful. Bialkowski hit Brantley on a roll out to the left. 29-28.
The game was far from over. Corona's Alan Stitt returned the ball to midfield but CHS was only able to move about 10 yards and Cartwright was sacked on a 4th and 3 play.
Final Gilbert 29 Corona del Sol 28
This was one of the better games I have seen this year. The loss pushes Corona to 1-5. This is still a talented team but they can't seem to find a break. They will have to play perfect football if they want to get into the playoffs.
Gilbert made plays when they needed and Brantley showed he is one of the state's top wideouts. They lack size and depth though. They will need to commit less penalties to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Both QBs played well, putting together drives when their teams needed. Bialkowski was so smooth in that game winning drive
Has to go to Gilbert WR Jesse Brantley. He had 2 TD grabs, an INT and caught the game winning two point conversion.
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