Prep football | Bradenton Christian Panthers rally past St. Pete Canterbury Crusaders

jdill@bradenton.comSeptember 29, 2012 

BRADENTON -- It won't show up in any box score, and it won't generate oohs and ahs from the home faithful like a long touchdown run provides.

But Peyton Spencer's lunging, shoelace-grabbing trip-up of St. Petersburg Canterbury's PJ Franklin stopped the Crusaders tailback from a certain touchdown.

It also kept Bradenton Christian up by two scores.

Consequently, the Panthers earned a pivotal Class 2A (urban)-District 5 victory 28-14 over Canterbury on Friday.

"We play until their zeroes on the clock," BCS head coach Allan Gerber said. "That is not something that you preach; that is something that we talk through and we work at every single day. We finish drills. We finish practice. We make things more difficult at the end of practice than at the early phases of practice. ... The reality of it is you want your football team to prepare to play 48 minutes."

Spencer, a sophomore, added an interception in the closing minutes that allowed BCS (3-2 overall, 3-1 district) to put itself near the top of the district standings.

The Panthers, though, weren't always in control on Friday.

BCS sputtered in the first half, failing to convert two field goal attempts and found itself trailing 14-0 with Franklin (80-yard touchdown run) and Sammy Faucette (41-yard touchdown run) gouging the Panthers' defense in the early-going.

Franklin finished with 166 rushing yards on 18 attempts, but the intermission allowed BCS to adjust its defensive alignment and limit Canterbury to only two offensive plays longer than 10 yards in the second half.

A big key to the defense was John Giardina's momentum-swinging, 73-yard interception return off a Canterbury pitch where he timed the snap precisely.

"It's a risk/reward thing," Gerber said. "... We made some adjustments at halftime in how we aligned, because we were giving up the flank. But at the same time, that's a great individual effort from a kid that took to the coaching adjustment and made a great play. ... It really was a game-changer in my opinion."

Giardina's defensive gem came on the heels of Sinclair Laskett's 60-yard punt return to open the second half after the Panthers forced a three-and-out on the Crusaders' opening third-quarter possession.

Laskett, like the rest of his teammates, was just getting started in the second half.

He ripped off additional scores from 8 and 12 yards, while amassing 199 rushing yards on 25 carries.

"I think we struggled first half because many of our guys were thinking about last week," said Laskett, whose club dropped a 20-13 decision on the road to district rival Largo Indian Rocks Christian. "I was thinking about last week of how we lost. We should have pulled out the win. ... I told my guys to forget about it in the locker room upstairs, and that's what we did. And we came out second half and pulled it out."

The Panthers were without starting quarterback Joey Giardina, who was sidelined with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. Gerber said they will sit him out for the time being. BCS hosts the Imagine School of North Port next Friday for homecoming.

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