Updated: Oct 29, 2018
Hopes ran very high at the beginning of the Gilbert Tigers 2018 football season. The Tigers hadn't made it to the playoffs since the 2011 season and struggles and injuries late this season seemed to put the playoff hopes in jeopardy once again. Going into Friday night, the Tigers were #12 in the AIA 5A Rankings with needing a win to hold that guaranteed playoff berth.
The 1st quarter was fast paced and high scoring. Only 2:00 minutes into the game, the Tigers hit the end zone and added 2 on the PAT. But just as quickly, the Rams score on a 40 yard reverse pass to get on the board making the score 8-7. Then back came the Tigers with a field goal after a very long kick off return. On the issuing possession, the Rams took advantage of a questionable targeting call that continued a long drive ending in 7 more to take the lead 14-11. Ending the 1st quarter.
After the Tigers failed to move the ball on their next possession and having to punt it away, the Rams hit the end zone again on a long 61 yard run and extend their lead to 20-11 with 9:52 left in the half. (The PAT was missed due to a bad snap.)
To start the 3rd quarter, the Tiger would kick off to the Rams. But some good defense by the Tigers keep the Rams from adding to their lead. But the Tigers found the end zone with just 2:44 left in the 3rd to cut into the Rams lead 20-17.
After holding the Rams to 3rd and long at the end of the 3rd quarter, the Rams hit the end zone from 61 yards out again on the 1st play of the 4th quarter. Padding their lead to 27-17. The Tigers would add a short field goal at the 5:33 mark, but the Rams strike again from great distance. A 74 yard screen pass made the score 34-20 with 4:06 left in the game. But fighting until the end as the Tigers have done all season, they managed to get into the end zone one more time to make the score 34-27 with just 1:15 left. That was how it ended.
So the wait was on for the Tigers. They would have to wait until after 10:00am on Saturday morning to find out their fate. As the AIA 5A playoff bracket was posted, everyone held their breath. Would their strength of schedule hold them high enough in the rankings to keep them in the playoffs? Sure enough, there they were holding onto a #14 seed and seeing their name on the playoff bracket for the first time in nearly a decade. Though they will have to face #3 Notre Dame Prep, the only school to shutout the Tigers this season (week 3), they are just excited to get in and prove the belong there.
Maricopa jumped from #16 to #15 in the final regular season rankings and will face #2 Williams Field.