What’s at stake in Friday night’s regular season-ending clash between Goose Creek and Stratford?
“This game has a little bit of everything,” said Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy. “The Region 7-AAAA championship is at stake, and the winner gets a No. 1 seed in the playoffs, which means three home playoff games.
“Our 36-game winning streak, that’s on the line, too. Not only that, this is a crosstown rivalry against a team that happens to be the best team we’ve played in the last three or four years.”
Stratford coach Ray Stackley’s take on the game:
“Two big rivals. Same city, same county and same region. Not only that, same dream. That creates a lot of interest.”
If football is king in Berkeley County, and it is, Friday is coronation time at Stratford’s Stackley Field. Goose Creek, 10-0 and No. 3 in the state, faces Stratford, 9-1 and No. 7 in the latest state poll. Both teams are 5-0 in league play.
A standing-room-only crowd is expected for the 7:30 p.m. game. The stadium gates will open at 5 p.m., some 45 minutes earlier than usual.
“You know there will be people standing in line, waiting for the gates to open,” Stackley said.
If you’re sensing déjà vu in this great rivalry, move to the head of the class. It was the same situation last year when the teams clashed at the Gators’ Fulmer Field. Goose Creek was 10-0 and Stratford was 9-1 entering. The Gators grabbed a 31-23 victory over the Knights, allowing all 23 points in the final quarter.
The Knights focused on stopping the running game last fall in front of about 7,000 fans, and Goose Creek quarterback Dantez Bennamon responded with 7-of-13 passing for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
This season, Bennamon has accounted for nearly 2,000 yards in total offense. Starting tailback Caleb Kinlaw has 1,057 yards and 19 TDs rushing. His backup, Tyrik Johnson, has 994 yards and 20 scores.
It’s firepower like that that allows Goose Creek to score at an alarming rate. The Gators are averaging 50.8 points and 528 yards per game.
While Goose Creek prefers to run the football, Stackley’s offense revolves around the right arm of Jacob Park, a quarterback who has a Shrine Bowl invitation and a scholarship to the University of Georgia.
Park has passed for 2,463 yards and 21 touchdowns and has two outstanding targets in Thad Thompson and Tyree Scroggins. Thompson has 37 catches for 952 yards and nine TDs; Scroggins has 34 receptions for 667 yards and seven TDs. The Gators must account for running back Jordan Johnson, who is dangerous as a runner and receiver.
The Knights saw their perfect season end last week in a loss at South Aiken. The Knights had three starters out for the game with injuries, but all three players are expected to play Friday.