GOOSE CREEK — The Goose Creek vs. Dutch Fork showdown lived up to its heavyweight hype.
The No. 3-ranked Gators and No. 4 Silver Foxes traded big plays on offense, came up with stops when needed on defense, and made the crowd of more than 7,500 at Fulmer Field hold its collective breath too many times.
There were mistakes, most notably two costly fumbles by Goose Creek, and missed PAT attempts. But the Gators rallied in the third quarter and came away with a 35-21 victory.
“It was a big win for us,” Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy said. “We had a chance for two more touchdowns in the first half, but turned the ball over. But I felt we were beginning to wear them down late in the second quarter.”
The Gators won their 31st straight game on the field to go 5-0 on the season. The Gators have another tough challenge next week with a trip to Beaufort. Dutch Fork lost to the Gators for the second straight year and dropped to 4-1 on the season.
While the Gators’ offense rolled up 523 total yards, including 460 on the ground, it was their defense that provided the spark.
On the first possession of the second half, the Silver Foxes had a 4th-and-2 on the Gators’ 36. Goose Creek, trailing 21-20, held and marched 64 yards in seven plays for the go-ahead score when Caleb Kinlaw scored on a 19-yard run and ran in the conversion to give his team a 28-21 lead.
“That stop on fourth down was big,” Reedy said. “I thought our defense played well. To hold a team like that to 21 points and to shut them out in the second half was tremendous.”
Tyrik Johnson, who entered the game averaging 16.5 yards per carry, capped the final scoring drive with an 18-yard touchdown run. The drive lasted five plays and covered 80 yards.
Goose Creek quarterback Dantez Bennamon had another big game, rushing for 189 yards and two touchdowns, and completing 4 of 8 passes for 63 yards.
Kinlaw had 13 carries for 120 yards, while Evan McField carried 25 times for 104 yards.
Dutch Fork also moved the ball, finishing with 459 total yards. Quarterback Derek Olenchuk completed passes to 10 different receivers. He was 34 of 45 for 361 yards and three scores.
But the Silver Foxes failed to score from inside the Gators’ 10-yard line on three separate drives.
“You have to put points on the board when you play a team like them.” Knotts said. “You have to score when you get into the red zone.”
Goose Creek collected 233 yards on its first three possessions to take a 20-7 lead. Bennamon did most of the damage with touchdown runs of 58 and 84 yards.
“When you see a quarterback running downfield, it’s because the defense made a mistake,” Knotts said. “It’s hard to play against an option because you don’t see it that much. Hats off to Chuck for sticking with it all these years.”
After three TDs on three possessions, the Gators lost two costly fumbles that let the Silver Foxes get back into the game.
The Gators fumbled on the Dutch Fork 5, and the Silver Foxes moved 95 yards for a score as Olenchuk passed 27 yards to Austin Connor to cut the lead to 20-14.
It was more of the same on the next possession as the Gators fumbled the ball away at the Dutch Fork 15. Olenchuk was on target and capped the drive with a 7-yard TD toss to KJ Williams with 24 seconds left in the half.
Dutch Fork 7 14 0 0—21
Goose Creek 14 6 15 0—35
GC — Evan McField 2 run (kick failed)
DF — Deion Frasier 7 pass from Derek Olenchuk (Tyler Bass kick)
GC — Dantez Bennamon 57 run (Caleb Kinlaw run)
GC — Bennamon 83 run (kick failed)
DF — Austin Connor 27 pass from Olenchuk (Bass kick)
DF — KJ Williams 6 pass from Olenchuk (Bass kick)
GC — Kinlaw 19 run (Kinlaw run)
GC — Tyrik Johnson 18 run (Alex Jacobus kick)