MOUNT PLEASANT —It was billed as a battle between the top two high school quarterbacks in the Lowcountry.
What it turned into was a defensive struggle with a few key special teams plays.
Christian Hart threw for 198 yards and three touchdowns and the Wando special teams blocked two punts to lead the Warriors past Stratford, 42-7, Friday night before a capacity crowd of more than 5,000 at Wando Stadium.
The victory for the Warriors, who improved to 8-0 for the first time in school history, sets up a showdown with unbeaten and nationally-ranked Goose Creek (8-0) next Friday night in what should be a game for the Region 7-AAAA regular season title.
Hart and Stratford’s Jacob Park came into Friday night’s game as two of the elite quarterbacks in the Lowcountry. Park, a junior, had thrown for 1,331 yards and 12 touchdown passes, while Hart had 1,767 yards and 15 touchdown passes.
Hart easily won the individual battle with Park, completing 16 of 28 passes and touchdown passes of 5, 10 and 15 yards. Hart didn’t view it as a personal battle with Park.
“Jacob is a great quarterback, but I tried not to get involved with any individual battle,” Hart said. “I was more concerned with Stratford’s defense and what we needed to do to move the ball against them.”
After a nervous start to the game, Hart found his rhythm in the second half, throwing two of his three TD passes.
“It was a big game and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some jitters early on,” Hart said. “In the second half, the offensive line played great, they opened some holes and we got things going.”
Park, who missed last week’s game against Cane Bay with an injured knee, struggled to find his touch as he completed just 10 of 28 passes for 78 yards.
“I don’t think that Jacob was 100 percent,” Wando coach Jimmy Noonan said.
While the Wando offense has grabbed most of the headlines this season, it was the Warriors defense that keyed the victory.
The Warriors sacked Park four times and limited the Knights to just 98 yards of total offense. The Warriors defense had given up 63 points — 28 to Fort Dorchester and 35 to West Ashley — in their last two games.
“Our defense was stellar tonight,” Noonan said. “They had given up a ton of points in the last two games and to come out and play this way against a very good Stratford offense was great. They never let them get into any kind of rhythm.”
The Warriors special teams was equally good, blocking two punts and forcing a safety.
“Special teams usually come up huge in a big game,” Noonan said.
“They gave us great field position and points tonight.”
The Warriors marched down the field on their first possession as running back Kenny Waring scored on a 5-yard TD pass from Hart. Casey Clawson, who kicked two field goals, connected on a 38-yard effort to give the Warriors a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
Park scored on a 10-yard run to pull the Knights to within 10-7 early in the second quarter as the game looked like it would become a high-scoring affair.
But the Warriors defense buckled down in the second half and Waring’s second touchdown reception gave the Warriors a 18-7 lead with 4:47 left in the third quarter.
A Nate Wright 15-yard TD reception just before the end of the third quarter gave the Warriors a 25-7 advantage.
Two blocked punts, one of which was returned for a TD by Chance Price, provided the final margin of victory.
“We know what we’re facing next week against Goose Creek,” Noonan said. “Our attitude has been one game at a time, and it has worked for us all season.”
Stratford 0 7 0 0—7
Wando 10 2 13 17—42
W: Kenny Waring 5 pass from Christian Hard (Casey Claswon kick)
w: Casey clawson 38 FG
S: Jacob Park 10 run (Tyler Tekac kick)
W: safety, Stratford punter kicks ball out of end zone
W: Waring 11 pass from Hart (run failed)
W: Nate Wright 15 pass from Hart (Clawson kick)
W: Casey Clawson 30 FG
W: Stevie Wilson 3 run (Clawson kick)
W: Chance Price 5 blocked punt (Clawson kick)