Bobby Gabriel wasn’t about to lose to Vickery Creek again. It was time for redemption.
With Riverwatch down five with 5:54 left in regulation, Gabriel took over.
The quarterback recorded seven carries for 46 yards on the final drive, as he marched the team 65 yards on 12 plays before punching it in on third-and-goal from the 1 to give the Panthers a 23-20 lead after the two-point conversion and ultimately the Forsyth County middle school championship on Tuesday night at Lambert High School.
“It was just practice and preparation all year long,” Gabriel said. “We just stayed the course. We got down, but we kept getting back up. We knew the plays we were going to run and we executed them and got down to the 1. We purposefully went down to take some time off the clock to make it a little harder on them to score and we got it in there.”
The win marked the second time in three years Riverwatch has won the title after falling in last season’s championship game to the Vipers 14-7. Vickery (8-1) also dealt Riverwatch (8-1) its only loss of the season in September by a score of 33-20.
“It’s just a testament to our coaching staff and players,” Riverwatch coach Jeff Brumbelow said. “They just worked so hard all year long. …We thought that we had a good chance of winning out after we lost that game and that we’d see them again and just trying to get better and better …and this time it happened to turn out in our favor.”
Both teams were held scoreless in the first quarter, but Vickery broke the scoring drought with a 12-yard scamper from quarterback Zach Burns (6-for-12, 100 yards, 2 INTs) to put the team up 6-0 with 3:43 left in the half.
Riverwatch responded, as Gabriel (22 rushes, 148 yards, 2 TDs) racked up 50 yards before running back Will Kohlins (12 carries, 84 yards, 1 TD) burst through the line with a 4-yard touchdown to make the score 8-6 following the two-point conversion with 1:23 remaining in the second quarter.
Vickery didn’t wait long to regain the lead early in the third quarter, as Michael Rogers (12 carries, 115 yards, 1 TD) went 65 yards in two plays for the score. However, the lead didn’t last long, as Gabriel answered for the Panthers three plays later on a 5-yard run to recapture a 15-14 advantage.
“The kids played really hard and had a really good season,” Vickery coach Mark Taylor said. “It’s unfortunate that we had to play here once again at their home field, and I think that kind of played a part into things and that stinks for our kids. But, they had a really good season.”
Burns connected with Hunter Martin for a 25-yard touchdown strike for Vickery, but Riverwatch had plenty of time for the game-winning drive.
The Vipers regained the ball and trailed by three with 56.7 left and were forced to throw deep, where defensive back Tyler Gillis intercepted the pass to secure the championship win.
“I was nervous, but knew I had to make a play on the ball in order to win the game,” Gillis said. “We just played hard and gave it all we got.”