By Bill Howard
Gibbs High School rolled into Webb School of Knoxville this past Friday night on a high after defeating Halls on opening night.
Against the Spartans, the Eagles ran twice as many plays (85 to 42) from scrimmage, had 127 more total yards (434 to 307), and a huge advantage in Time of Possession.
They also lost, 17-14.
One reason for the loss is another statistic Gibbs led in: penalties. It wasn’t just that the Eagles were flagged for 100 yards to Webb’s 57. Some of Gibbs’s penalties very possibly changed the game.
“Very sloppy for us I guess,” said Gibbs’s coach Brad Turner. “I think Webb had one or two (five, actually); we had a ton. A lot of holdings, touchdowns called back. Stuff we gotta clean up. You hate to see that in a game.”
Webb (1-1) took a 7-0 lead with 6:17 left in the first when, on second and four from the Eagle 12, junior quarterback Charley Robinson hit Brandon Winton for a touchdown.
For the game, Robinson was 11 of 16 for 193 yards, two touchdowns and a pick.
“Charley did a great job,” said Spartan coach David Meske. “He made some plays throwing the football but he also made some plays running the football.”
Gibbs (1-1) then sustained a long drive and got to Webb’s five, but turned the ball over on downs when a fourth-down run was stuffed. After forcing a Webb punt, the Eagles then tied the game at seven when quarterback Bryson Palmer took it in from the two.
Palmer was 18 of 30 for the game, for 248 yards.
“Their quarterback is very talented,” said Meske. “He can throw and he can run.”
“He did a great job,” said Turner. “He’s a tough kid. He battled…I’m proud of all our guys.”
Webb took a 14-7 lead into halftime when, with 3:04 left in the half, Robinson hit running back Jalen Hill for a 23-yard touchdown.
Gibbs sustained yet another long drive in the half’s final three minutes, but turned the ball over on downs – the third time in the half – on an incomplete fourth-down pass.
“I thought defensively we played really, really well,” said Meske. “We made some big plays and some big stops and that made a big difference.”
“It was a very physical game,” said Turner. “I thought we moved the ball well; we got down inside the red zone and just couldn’t score.”
After a scoreless third quarter, Webb built the lead to 17-7 behind Otto Niendorff’s 28-yard field goal with 9:10 left in the fourth.
The Eagles’ self-inflicted wounds were perfectly highlighted on the next drive. On third and 10 from Webb’s 44, Palmer threw a touchdown pass. But two penalties – a hold and personal foul – not only negated the score, but moved the ball way back into Gibbs territory. Two plays later they punted.
But the Eagles wouldn’t quit. Taking over with 4:09 left, they drove 72 yards for a score when Palmer ran it in from the two. Webb, which now led 17-14, had two costly penalties of its own on the drive.
“We didn’t play perfect football,” said Meske. “Gibbs has a good football team.”
The drama was far from over. The Spartans got the ball with 1:56 to play. A quick three-and-out would give the Eagles a very good chance to score and win the game. On the first play, Robinson bolted 36 yards to the Gibbs 15.
Two plays later, Dominick Vance appeared to score and ice the game, but fumbled just outside the goal line. Gibbs recovered in the end zone, and just like that, had a first down on the 20.
But a fourth-down pass from their own 48 was incomplete, and the Spartans held on.
“They had a good scheme, they played hard,” said Turner. “Our guys, defensively, we played really well, holding those guys to 17. Webb is very well-coached. We gotta make plays at the right time.”
“Our offense is getting better all the time, and we’re gonna continue to get better,” said Meske. “It was a good win for our kids and they really needed that.”
Before the game, a moment of silence was held for Gibbs graduate Ryan Knauss. Knauss, 23, was one of 13 members of the U.S. military killed last week by a terrorist attack in Afghanistan.