Jacob Park’s touchdown run in the first quarter on Friday night captured Stratford High School’s attitude in a microcosm. The Knights wouldn’t be denied.
Park raced around the right side on a 6-yard run and encountered two South Pointe defenders at the goal line. Park engaged both, making contact, leaving his feet and ultimately flipping into the end zone for the first Stratford touchdown in the 36-13 victory.
“He’s been our savior all year long,” SHS offensive coordinator Dennie McDaniel said. “We knew coming in their front four was tremendous and we’d have a hard time running on them. So we just put the ball in Jacob’s hands and he led us to the victory.”
Park later threw three touchdown passes to lead the Knights into the Class AAAA state championship game for the first time since 2004. Stratford (12-2) will take on top-ranked Northwestern High School on Saturday at noon at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. The Trojans are 14-0 and ranked nationally.
Park finished with 268 yards passing and accounted for the four touchdowns to more than atone for his lone blemish, an interception on the third play of the game that was returned for a South Pointe touchdown by Josh Massey.
He responded by leading the Knights on an 80-yard drive, capping it himself with a flip.
Tyler Tekac made a 28-yard field goal and Park’s 7-yard pass to Chris Allen gave Stratford a 17-7 lead in the second quarter.
South Pointe cut into its deficit on Josh Brice’s 8-yard run after Stratford lost a fumble deep in its own territory. The Stallions failed to convert the extra point and it went to halftime, 17-13.
Stratford scored 19 unanswered points in the second half to pull away from the Stallions. Park’s 51-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Johnson and 39-yarder to Jared Terhune highlighted the strong final two periods. Johnson made his grab along the sideline and maintained his balance to stay inbounds while dodging a South Pointe defender. Terhune’s grab was on a tipped ball after he had gotten behind South Pointe’s defense.
The Knights also got a safety and 27-yard field goal from Tyler Tekac down the stretch.
“We had a couple of turnovers but other than that we shut them out the whole night,” SHS coach Ray Stackley said. “Our defense played lights out.”
The Stallions finished with under 150 yards of total offense a week after defeating Stratford’s rival, Goose Creek, 30-27.
“We felt they came in here thinking they were going to walk us over,” McDaniel said, “but this coaching staff and the guys in the locker room believed we had a chance to win this game. We talked about unfinished business all week. The kids played hard and we came away with a victory.”
Stratford defensive coordinator Joe Marion said the game plan was to man up on the outside and stack the box with extra players. Film showed the Stallions were run heavy.
“We had been stopping the run well all year long,” Marion said. “When we charted them, they were about 70 percent run overall. We knew we had a chance of being able to stop their run.”
South Pointe 7 6 0 0—13
Stratford 10 7 9 10—36
SP — Josh Massey 30 interception return (Kyle Dix kick)
ST — Jacob Park 6 run (Tyler Tekac kick)
ST — Tekac 28 FG
ST — Chris Allen 7 pass from Park (Tekac kick)
SP — Josh Brice 8 run (kick failed)
ST — Safety
ST — Jordan Johnson 51 pass from Park (Tekac kick)
ST — Jared Terhune 39 pass from Park (Tekac kick)
ST — Tekac 27 field goal