Duval Sports

No. 2 All eyes on Matthew Gilbert again as Panthers reclaim title

JACKSONVILLE-After a 30-0 victory over Fletcher by Mathew Gilbert in the first week of the season, not many expected these two teams to see each other at the end of the season playing for the Duval County Middle School Championship.

Well, not many except the coaches from Gilbert and the coaches from Fletcher that is. These two Duval County middle school powerhouses have the utmost respect for one another, so when they met Tuesday night for the Middle School Championship it was no surprise to them. They both came out determined and on a mission, but only one could eventually be crowned champion.

Early on in the contest both teams felt each other out. A gridiron chess match between the two very talented coaching staffs who were very familiar with each other’s systems left the score tied 0-0 after the first quarter.

Fletcher was able to assert themselves in their trademark running game driving deep into Gilbert territory. However Fletcher would come away with no points in the first quarter as Gilbert’s defense held strong on a two goal-line stands in the game.

Gilbert started very slow on offense as penalties and turnovers plagued the Panthers. It would be the opening Fletcher needed as they capitalized on those mistakes late in the second quarter.

Josh Davis surprised Gilbert with a touchdown pass to Jeff Davis to put Fletcher up 8-0 going into halftime. It was the type of play they stunned everyone seeing that Matthew Gilbert had not trailed in a game all year.

In the second half, Fletcher continued where they left off asserting themselves in the running game. With just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter Fletcher would score again this time on a Lamar Beard touchdown run giving Fletcher a 14-0 lead.

It was an impressive start for the defending 2015 champions. It showed incredible pride and preparation to attack at team that defeated them in week one 30-0. An upset was seemingly in the making as Fletcher looked in total control of the game. That’s until Gilbert woke up.

Down by 14 with their season on the line, the Panther playmakers stepped up big. Cobie Bates took off on a 35 yard scamper setting up Christopher Johnson on a short touchdown run. They would convert on a two point conversion by Kevonte Doles as Gilbert clawed within six points, 14-8 in the third quarter.

Enthused with momentum and confidence the Gilbert defense shut down the Fletcher offense in the fourth quarter getting the ball back in the hands of their offensive weapons.

With quick strike precision, Gilbert let loose an offensive barrage for the record books as they scored 30 unanswered points, including 22 points in the fourth quarter alone.

Touchdowns from Kevonte Doles of 40 yards, Cobie Bates of 50 yards and a Larry Tould late touchdown ensured the Gilbert victory 30-14.