Fort Dorchester will have momentum on its side when the Patriots host Summerville in a Region 8-AAAA football slugfest Friday night. Summerville, meanwhile, must play like a team on a mission.
Fort Dorchester gained the momentum last weekend when the Patriots rallied from a 21-0 deficit to post a 28-21 victory over West Ashley. Summerville experienced just about the opposite results. The Green Wave led Stratford 20-7 early in the third quarter, but couldn’t hold on as the Knights remained undefeated with a 28-26 victory.
Fort Dorchester and Summerville bring 4-2 records into the region opener for both teams. The kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Bagwell Stadium. Patriot coach Steve LaPrad, a longtime assistant to John McKissick at Summerville, hopes his team can build on last week’s impressive play in the second half.
“This team is a little different than past teams,” LaPrad said. “We’re a little younger.
“I didn’t like that we were down 21-0 (last week). But this team grew up a lot and that gave us a chance to win. We have three or more tough games on our schedule, and then there are the playoffs. That victory helped us grow up and get ready.”
McKissick, who enters the game with 606 career victories, expects an intense game.
“It seems like every week we have a rivalry game,” the 87-year-old coach said. “This is a great rivalry game, but it seems like every week we have one. The kids take it in stride.”
Summerville leads the series 20-2, and the Patriots haven’t defeated the Green Wave since 2001. Summerville posted a 17-10 victory last fall. The series is lopsided, but the games have produced memorable players, plays and games.
Three first-round NFL picks played in the series in the 2000s. Fort Dorchester had defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Robert Quinn and Summerville showcased wide receiver A.J. Green.
Memorable play? That had to be Dunlap’s 95-yard kickoff return to begin the 2005 game. Dunlap, who was 6-6 and weighed 240 pounds at the time, raced down the field untouched.
Memorable game? Fort Dorchester has won only two times in the series, but the 2000 game arguably was the classic. The Patriots stunned the Green Wave 12-7 in a home game. The attendance was announced at 10,283, and many swarmed the field after the game. Fort Dorchester fans tore down a goal post.
“I don’t think it is any different this year,” LaPrad said. The region championship, most of the time, goes to Summerville. Our kids are aware of that. I told the kids it’s not about the opponent. It’s about the process. We have to control and stop them on offense and find their weaknesses on defense and exploit them.”
LaPrad said there were question marks surrounding his skill players heading into the season. But the group has developed to give the Patriots a balanced attack. Quarterback Kobe Garrett has passed for 608 yards and five touchdowns while adding another 457 yards and four scores on the ground. Matthew Murray is averaging 6.4 yards per carry and has tallied 496 yards and seven touchdowns. Nanshon Cyrus is just as effective He’s averaging 6.8 yards per attempt and has 400 yards and six scores.
McKissick said his team “messed up” in the loss to Stratford.
“We had our chances, but they kept coming at us. That’s what good teams do.”
Summerville’s leading rusher, Jacerie Ponder, who leads the Green Wave with 405 yards on the ground, did not play last week. That forced the Green Wave to go to the air. Quarterback Sawyer Bridge completed 12 of 46 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore has completed 42 percent of his passes on the season for 1,062 yards and nine TDs.