Goose Creek High School is back in the business of winning region crowns.
The visiting Gators locked up their first region championship since 2015 with a 42-14 victory at James Island High School Friday and enter the Class 5A playoffs Nov. 8 as the No.1 seed from Region 7-AAAAA.
Coach Jason Winstead’s second year has seen the Gators make quite a turnaround. In 2018, they won just two region games and missed the playoffs with a 4-6 overall record.
“Learning to win is a process,” Winstead said. “It just is. I’ve got a great coaching staff. They just work and the kids got better. It’s in them. It just took technique and effort, effort, effort.”
The Gators (6-2, 4-0 region) end the regular season at home Friday with the City of Goose Creek championship on the line against crosstown rival Stratford High School. The Knights have won two in a row since dropping 10 straight in the series, including 32-14 last year.
“I don’t think we had the best first half and we can’t have any bad halves moving forward,” Winstead said. “The first half like we played tonight will get you beat in the playoffs.”
But the Gators came out on a mission in the second half to break open a close game.
Gators quarterback Emmanuel Mukuamu threw three touchdown passes in a 28-point third quarter and finished with four scores through the air and one on the ground to power the Gators. He had well over 300 total yards.
James Island (2-6, 0-4 region) trailed just 14-7 at the break but the Gators went 71 yards to score on Mukaumu’s 31-yard pass to Malachi Taylor less than a minute into the third quarter.
Gators linebacker Tajhi Johnson then scooped up a fumble and raced back 40 yards to make it 28-7 a minute later, sparking the blowout.
Mukuamu finished off the Trojans with a 19-yard strike to Damon Mouzon and 21-yarder to DJ Matthews.
In the first half, Mukuamu and Mouzon also hooked up on a 41-yard scoring strike and Mukuamu scored on a 1-yard run.
The Gators defense did its part, too, to send the Gators into the break with some momentum and the one-touchdown advantage, stopping James Island inside the 1 twice late in the first half.
James Island didn’t score again until the final minute of the game.
“I was pretty upset at halftime last week over some things we did and this week I said I’m not yelling,” Winstead said. “I said I’m just telling you you thought you were going to sleep walk through it but they’re playing harder than you are. I said we’ve got to fix it or it’s going to be a long night.”
GC – Emmanuel Mukuamu 1 run (David Cannady kick)
JI – Kavone Coker 7 pass from Gunnar Nistad (Jackson Taylor kick)
GC – Damon Mouzon 41 pass from Mukuamu (David Bartell kick)
GC – Malachi Taylor 34 pass from Mukuamu (Bartell kick)
GC – Tahji Johnson 40 fumble return (Bartell kick)
GC – Mouzon 19 pass from Mukuamu (Bartell kick)
GC – DJ Matthews 21 pass from Mukuamu (Bartell kick)
JI – Jaden Scott 5 pass from Nistad (Taylor kick)