Long Reach's superior, senior-supported depth wasn't enough to overcome a special teams breakdown, two fumbles and an interception yesterday.
Cardinal Gibbons, which hasn't had a winning season since 1993, spoiled the home opener of Long Reach, which has hopes of a big season, by rallying from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit to win, 16-13.
A 23-yard field goal by freshman Chris Stimmel with 81 seconds left decided it. Stimmel was given a chance to kick only because senior starter Doug Summers was benched after missing Gibbons' first extra-point try.
On a humid afternoon, Long Reach played only one starter both ways. Gibbons, with only 25 in uniform, started six both ways.
"We had two starters in the hospital with a virus," Gibbons second-year coach Scott Ripley said. "At halftime, we were ragged-out, tired and our offense wasn't working. Long Reach was putting eight in the box and their blitzing middle linebacker was killing us."
Gibbons was lucky to trail only 7-6 at halftime, thanks only to a 99-yard, second-quarter kickoff return by Gerrick McPhearson, a junior running back who played at Calvert Hall last season.
McPhearson and Gibbons linebacker Travis Hancock (10 solo tackles) were injured in the second period. Hancock returned for the second half, but McPhearson sat out the entire third quarter.
It looked like a sure Long Reach victory when the Lightning scored early in the third quarter, capitalizing on great field position at Gibbons' 30-yard line. Charles Wilson caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Stewart Long to make it 13-6.
That score held up until the fourth period, because the Lightning halted a drive by Gibbons at Long Reach's 7-yard line.
But Mitchell Brown's fourth-quarter recovery of Long's fumble at the Long Reach 40-yard line set up the Crusaders' tying score.
Gibbons took just five plays, including a 16-yard reception by Brown and a 20-yard run by McPhearson (82 yards rushing) before quarterback Craig King scored from 4 yards. Stimmel kicked the extra point for 13-13.
Gibbons stopped the Lightning on three plays the next series, sparked by Hancock's quarterback sack. And the Crusaders then drove from their 35-yard line to Long Reach's 6 before Stimmel kicked the game-winner on fourth down.
The big play on that drive was a 38-yard pass to Brown, a two-time Most Valuable Player at Sparrows Point before transferring to Gibbons this year.
Brown played an important role in the win, catching three passes for 64 yards and intercepting a pass and recovering a fumble.
Long Reach coach Pete Hughes attributed the loss to turnovers and penalties. "We beat ourselves," he said. The Lightning also had only 160 yards total offense.
Robert Francois played a strong game for Long Reach with three sacks and nine tackles.
Wilde Lake 33, Bel Air 6: Chad Fawcett threw for 104 yards and two touchdowns as the host Wildecats avenged last season's opening-day loss to the Bobcats.
Mario Merrills rushed for 85 yards and two scores on on nine carries, and linebacker John Quinn ran back an interception for an 85-yard touchdown.
Game suspended: The game between Severn and Mount St. Joseph was suspended because of lightning in the fourth quarter. Severn was leading 20-14.
A date to complete the game has not been decided.