GOOSE CREEK — For 48 minutes Friday night, the focus was finally on football.
The Goose Creek Gators weathered a tumultuous week in which they were bounced from the playoffs and then reinstated when a judge ordered a temporary restraining order Friday afternoon. The Gators made the most of their second chance, knocking off Bluffton, 35-25, in front of a crowd of more than 7,000 in the second round of the Division II-AAAA playoffs.
Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy said it was good to get back to football after the dramatic week.
“I’m very happy, No. 1, to play,” Reedy said. “I’m very happy, No. 2, to win. You have to give Bluffton credit, they played very, very well.
“They had six turnovers and it could have been a different game. We have to play better next week or our season will be over.”
Senior running back Rico Blanding led the Gators with 140 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
“It was really rough this week,” Blanding said. “It was hard to concentrate this week. This was on our mind. But as game time neared, all we thought about was beating Bluffton. We put everything else out of our minds.”
The Gators benefitted from six Bluffton turnovers (four in the first half) in a game that saw the visiting team outgain Goose Creek — 396 yards to 351.
Bobcats quarterback C.J. Frazier passed for 333 yards, completing 22 of 45 passes with three touchdowns.
Bluffton coach Ken Cribb said his team also had a difficult week. After Goose Creek was disqualified from the playoffs for using an ineligible player, Bluffton was told it would host Conway on Friday night.
“It’s tough enough when you have to prepare for Goose Creek,” said Cribb, whose team finished with an 11-2 record. “But when you have to switch gears and prepare for Conway and switch gears again to face Goose Creek, that’s really tough. You hear what happens (concerning the eligibility and hearings) and it changes your practices.
“I don’t think it was fair to order us to play tonight. It would have been better to play Saturday.”
The Gators, No. 11 in the latest USA Today poll and the top team in the state, won their 26th straight game and are 13-0 on the season. They will go before the High School League’s Executive Committee on Monday to appeal for the second time the league’s ruling that knocked them out of the playoffs.
Goose Creek lost its appeal on Wednesday, but Circuit Judge Roper Young ruled that Goose Creek could play Friday night and that the High School League’s Executive Committee must hold another hearing on Monday. If the committee rules against Goose Creek again, Bluffton will advance in the playoffs.
Bluffton 0 13 9 6—25
Goose Creek 7 21 0 7—35
GC— Rico Blanding 1 run (Masamitsu Ishibashi kick)
GC— Blanding 2 run (Ishibashi kick)
GC — Omar McRae 28 INT return (Ishibashi kick)
B — Smalls 15 pass from Frazier (Mallie Sprouse kick)
GC — Blanding 41 run (Ishibashi kick)
B — Webber 15 pass from Frazier (kick failed)
B — John Robinson 45 run (pass failed)
GC — Tramel Terry 2 run (Ishibashi kick)
B — Webber 3 pass from Frazier (pass failed)
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