Gators' win streak alive and well
It was every bit the test Chuck Reedy thought it would be.
And like the 30 before it, the Goose Creek Gators walked off the field winners.
The Gators stayed unbeaten and extended their winning streak to 31 games, knocking off Dutch Fork 35-21 on homecoming in a battle of Top 5 Class AAAA teams at Fulmer Field on Friday night.
“This football team we beat tonight is one of the best five or six teams in the state by anybody’s calculations,” Reedy said. “They’re right up there. This gives us a pretty good gauge that if we work hard and continue getting better every week that we’ve got a chance to make a good run.”
Goose Creek, ranked as high as No. 2, piled up 460 rushing yards in moving to 5-0, scoring twice in the third quarter to overcome a 21-20 halftime deficit.
Quarterback Dantez Bennamon netted 189 yards on the ground and scored on runs of 83 and 57 yards to power Goose Creek to a 20-7 advantage in the first half. Tailback Caleb Kinlaw (120) and fullback Evan McField (104) each topped the 100-yard mark and scored once. Bennamon also passed for 63 yards.
“We preached all week that we had to play 48 minutes of physical football and in the end that would win out,” Reedy said. “I think that certainly we played with great effort for 48 minutes.”
Dutch Fork fell to 4-1 but proved worthy of its No. 4 ranking, getting 361 yards passing from quarterback Derek Olenchuck. The Silver Foxes lost leading rusher Matt Colburn early in the second quarter and ended up throwing the ball 46 times.
Olenchuck’s 6-yard pass to K.J. Williams, and ensuing extra point by Tyler Bass, with 24 seconds left in the second quarter put Goose Creek in rare position. It was the first time the Gators faced a deficit at half since the playoffs in 2009 against North Augusta.
Like that game, which they ironically also won 35-21, the Gators responded.
First, they stopped the Silver Foxes on a fourth-and-2 at the Goose Creek 36 and then marched down for the go-ahead score.
Kinlaw’s 19-yard touchdown scamper capped the 64-yard drive with 6:15 left in the third. Tyrik Johnson later scored on an 18-yard run to cap an 80-yard drive with 49 seconds left in the period.
The Gators defense, while giving up some yards, kept the Foxes out of the end zone in the second half. Goose Creek held five times on fourth-down plays in the game, twice inside the 10.
“The way the defense played in the second half was the best thing that came out of this,” Reedy said. “The progress we’ve made defensively is exceptional. We played with great effort and we kept the ball in front of us. We didn’t give up any big plays. To hold them several times on fourth down and hold them around the goal line a couple times was huge. I can’t say enough about our defensive coaches and players.”
Gators defensive coordinator Chris Candor said Colburn leaving the game with an injury likely moved Dutch Fork away from its original gameplan and the Silver Foxes began to spread it out more and throw.
“We had game planned all week for what they had done the last three weeks,” he said. “He’s a good back. He’s great… It looked like they made the adjustment to say ‘hey, we’re going to throw the ball more often.’ We had to make the adjustment and it took us a while to get it figured out.”
Colburn entered with over 800 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing. He finished with eight carries for 37 yards and one catch for six yards on Friday.
The most productive play for Dutch Fork ended up being a pass from Olenchuk to receiver Deion Frasier. He caught 14 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. Austin Connor added a 27-yard touchdown grab for Dutch Fork.
The Gators had 232 yards on three scoring drives to start the game. McField’s two-yard plunge made it 6-0 and Bennamon’s scoring plays gave the Gators a 20-7 lead.
Going in for another score, Goose Creek lost a fumble at Dutch Fork’s 5.
Connor’s touchdown grab then pulled Dutch Fork within 20-14 in the second quarter and the Silver Foxes pounced on another Gators fumble in the red zone.
Williams’ catch ended an 85-yard drive and put Goose Creek in the hole after two quarters. The Gators had two extra points blocked in the opening half.
But the win streak is still alive thanks to a strong second half.
The Gators travel to Beaufort, Carolina Forest and Cane Bay over the next three weeks.
“We’ve got some long rides ahead,” Candor said. “Those are tough for high school kids that have been in school all day. It’s always tough to play on the road.”