Goose Creek survives Stratford to win Region 7-AAAA championship
GOOSE CREEK — The Goose Creek Gators gained bragging rights, the Region 7-AAAA championship and more than likely a No. 1 seed in the football playoffs with a 14-7 victory over Stratford Friday night in front of more than 8,000 fans at Stackley Field.
Goose Creek, ranked No. 3 in the state, ran its winning streak to 37 games on the field and wrapped up the regular season with an 11-0 record, including 4-0 in 7-AAAA. Stratford fell to 9-2, 3-1.
It marked the seventh straight year Goose Creek beat Stratford.
The victory should give Goose Creek three homes games in the playoffs as long as the Gators keep winning. Stratford is projected to be a No. 4 seed and could get a rematch against the Gators in the third round.
Once again, Goose Creek quarterback Dantez Bennamon was the difference. Last year he passed for 179 yards and two touchdowns as Stratford shut down the Gators’ running game. Friday, he broke off a 64-yard run to set up the game-winning score, a 5-yard run by Tyrik Johnson.
The senior signal caller rushed for 127 yards and passed for 62 to account for 189 of the Gators’ 302 total yards.
“Tonight, he beat us on one play,” Stratford coach Ray Stackley said. “He had that long run. Other than that, it was a pretty even football game.”
The victory gave Bennamon a 24-0 record as a starting quarterback.
“What can I say? I’ll keep saying it: He is the best quarterback around,” Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy said. “He does what he needs to do to win games.”
Stratford quarterback Jacob Park completed 14 of 32 passes for 130 yards and threw two interceptions.
After holding Goose Creek on the game’s opening possession, Stratford took a 7-0 lead on its first play from scrimmage. Park lateraled the ball to Thad Thompson, who found K.J. Givens wide open for a 45-yard touchdown pass with 7:58 left in the first quarter.
But the Knights couldn’t get in the end zone the rest of the game.
“Our defense stepped up big time,” Reedy said. “It was a defensive battle by both sides. I don’t know if we can play defense any better than we did tonight. After the first trick play, we shut them down.”
The Gators relied on Bennamon and fullback Evan McField as Stratford took away the perimeter running game and kept the Gators from making big plays for most of the night. The Gators averaged more then 50 points and 400 yards rushing per game, but found yards and points at a premium against the Knights.
The Gators finally got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter as McField scored on a 1-yard run to cap a 16-play, 86-yard drive. He finished the night with 69 yards on the ground.
The Gators pushed the lead to 14-7 when Johnson scored on a 5-yard run with 9:26 left in the third quarter.
Bennamon had the big play, a 64-yard keeper, to give the Gators a first and goal at the Knights’ 8.
The Knights threatened on their next possession, but Omar McCrae picked off Park in the end zone.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Goose Creek faced a fourth-and-one at its 20. The Gators went for it and Bennamon broke free for an apparent 80-yard TD run, but the Gators were called for a holding penalty.
It didn’t matter to Bennamon, who was just happy to get the victory.
“They are our rivals,” he said. “We see each other every day. I have to give credit to our defense.
“They kept us in the game when we struggled on offense.”
Goose Creek 0 7 7 0—14
Stratford 7 0 0 0—7
S — K.J. Givens 45 pass from Thad Thompson (Tyler Tekac kick)
GC — Evan McField 1 run (Alex Jacobus kick)
GC — Tyrik Johnson 5 run (Jacobus kick)