Gators get struggle, satisfaction
Blowouts have been the name of the game the majority of the time in Goose Creek’s impressive winning streak.
On Friday, the Gators had to win a slugfest to extend their streak to 37 games, surviving crosstown rival Stratford, 14-7 at Stackley Field.
The Gators ended the regular season 11-0 with their seventh straight win in the series. The victory also gave Goose Creek the Region 7-AAAA title.
Stratford is 9-2, with both of those setbacks coming the last two weeks.
“It was just what I knew and what I said,” GCHS coach Chuck Reedy said. “They’re probably the best team we’ve played in the last two or three years.”
“Whoever paid their $7 got their money’s worth,” SHS coach Ray Stackley said.
Both teams learned their playoff seeds Saturday and the rivalry could be on center stage again in three weeks.
But first, each team must get there.
The Gators, the No. 1 seeds in the Class AAAA Div. II bracket, host Wade Hampton on Friday in the opening round.
Stratford, the fifth seed, opens up at home with Nation Ford on Friday.
“We might have a chance to get back at them a little bit,” Stackley said.
Neither team came close to their season averages in points and yards because the defensive units were dialed in.
Stratford’s lone points came on its first play from scrimmage on a double pass. Thad Thompson tossed a 45-yard touchdown pass to K.J. Givens after hauling in a lateral from quarterback Jacob Park.
It took the Gators until the second quarter to answer. Fullback Evan McField capped an 86-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge.
Goose Creek’s other score was set up by quarterback Dantez Bennamon’s 65-yard scamper early in the third quarter. On fourth and goal, tailback Tyrik Johnson reached across the goal line on a 5-yard run. Alex Jacobus made his second extra point to give the Gators a 14-7 lead.
“What you saw was two really fine football teams,” Stackley said. “We didn’t make enough plays but we had some opportunities.”
Stratford had the ball last and drove to Goose Creek’s 47 before turning it over on downs. Gators defensive back Kenny Hampton swatted down a Park pass deep into Goose Creek territory for a bit of redemption. He got burnt earlier on Stratford’s touchdown play.
The Gators ran out the final 1:36.
Bennamon finished with 131 yards rushing and McField added 67 yards for the Gators. Bennamon also passed for 63 yards. His 29-yard connection to Deondre Daniels set up Goose Creek’s tying score in the second quarter.
“What can you say,” Reedy said of Bennamon. “I keep saying it. He’s the best quarterback around in my opinion. He’s 24-0 as a starting quarterback. That’s hard to beat.”
The Gators came in averaging over 400 yards per game rushing but found Stratford’s defense offering up the toughest resistance they’ve encountered all season. Reedy said he expected it from the outset and had plans to use all four downs on every possession.
“We knew it was going to be a quarterback-fullback game,” Reedy said. “I told our defensive coaches we’re playing four downs all over the field. We knew we had to make first downs to keep them off the field. They stopped us on some but we made it enough to keep some drives going.”
Park was 14 of 32 with two interceptions, both by Gators defensive back Omar McRae.
“You’ve got to be careful,” McRae said. “He’s a guy with a big arm that can sling it. He’s got the arm (to throw it over your head).”
One of McRae’s interceptions was at the goal line after Johnson’s go-ahead score in the third quarter.