In the previous year’s round two of the 4A East playoffs, Millbrook, ranked 12th, went to Cardinal Gibbons, ranked 5th, and ended the Crusaders’ season by winning 42-30.
This year, Cardinal Gibbons and Millbrook had a similar encounter. However, this time, Cardinal Gibbons emerged victorious with a dominating score of 55-21 against the Wildcats.
The match featured the top-ranked team from the Cap-6 Conference facing off against the second-ranked team from the NAC 6 Conference. These two teams were highly regarded as the strongest in Raleigh this year.
Next Friday, the Crusaders will face off against Clayton, the 13th seed, in the third round of the playoffs.
Despite having sophomore Gannon Jones as their backup quarterback, Cardinal Gibbons’ offense managed to score on their first five possessions of the game.
Throughout the evening, Jones was unstoppable, throwing four touchdown passes.
The game began with Gibbons in possession and they proceeded to score a long touchdown. Nic Leonard ended the drive with an eight-yard score from a counter play.
Millbrook responded with its own long, impressive drive. The Wildcats scored on a 14-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Mason Fortune to Nessiah McArthur. It would go on to be the only touchdown scored by the Millbrook offense.
Cardinal Gibbons responded promptly. Jones connected with Brayden Karras on a 44-yard long pass on third down, advancing the ball into Millbrook’s territory. McArthur and senior edge rusher Jayden Ferguson made crucial tackles, resulting in a loss for Gibbons. With a third-and-18 ahead, Jones dropped back and threw a long pass to sophomore receiver Aiden Smalls in the end zone, who successfully caught it.
The Wildcats were unable to advance the ball and had to punt after a joint effort sack by Ryan Ziegler and Malakhi Gurdak.
The Crusaders swiftly scored following a punt from Millbrook. Jones connected with senior receiver Chet Yardley on a stunning 33-yard throw, giving Gibbons a 21-7 lead with 8:59 remaining in the first half.
Nolan Wirick, a senior at Gibbons, intercepted Fortune’s pass after a Millbrook receiver slipped on the next play.
During the Gibbons drive, the Crusaders successfully completed two third-and-long plays and one fourth-and-14 play. The drive concluded with a seven-yard touchdown run by Aiden Smalls, who was the quarterback for that play.
DK Bryant made a 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, prompting a swift response from Millbrook.
In just two plays, Gibbons advanced the ball to Millbrook’s 16-yard line. The initial play was a deep throw from Jones to Yardley, followed by a lengthy scramble by Jones. A few plays later, the Crusaders scored with a two-yard run by Conway Kelly.
At halftime, Cardinal Gibbons had a 35-14 lead.
During the latter half of the game, Gibbons’ defensive team maintained a high level of pressure on Fortune, resulting in Millbrook being forced to turn over the ball on a fourth-and-22 situation.
The Crusaders swiftly scored once more, this time with a 45-yard pass from Jones to Smalls.
In the third quarter, Leonard scored his second touchdown of the game from a point slightly beyond the 10-yard line of Millbrook.
At the start of the final quarter, Gibbons was ahead with a score of 49-14.
Jones completed a pass to Yardley on a fade route on fourth-and-goal from the Millbrook seven-yard line, resulting in the Crusaders’ last score of the game.
The Wildcats scored again when Jojo Campbell recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown.
The Wildcats, led by new head coach Laymarr Marshall, ended their season with a 9-3 overall record and a 5-1 record in the NAC 6 Conference.