FLORENCE — Stratford helped erase bitter memories of a 26-14 loss to South Florence three weeks ago at Memorial Stadium, returning Friday night to hand the Bruins a 30-14 setback in the Class AAAA Division II playoffs.
The Knights will advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 2004. Stratford (11-2) will host South Pointe, 30-27 winners over Goose Creek, next week.
South Florence accomplished almost all of its goals this season except one — get past the second round of the playoffs.
The Bruins have never made it past the second round, and Stratford made sure that didn’t happen Friday.
The Knights got a big performance from quarterback Jacob Park and blanked the Bruins in the second half.
“When we left here last time, I think South Florence probably thought we were a poor football team,” Stratford coach Ray Stackley said.
“That motivated us, and we don’t play like that. Tonight, we played like we’re capable of.”
But the Bruins’ offense sputtered, especially in the second half, with turnovers, penalties and uncharacteristic mistakes in their third second-round loss in the last four years.
Park also had a big say in the Knights’ victory. The Georgia commitment was 12-of-18 for 231 yards with two touchdowns and also rushed for 88 yards.
After South Florence took a 7-0 in first quarter, Park hit Thad Thompson on an 80-yard touchdown pass six seconds later to tie it at 7 with 6:32 left in the first quarter.
The duo hooked up in the second quarter, and Jameak Jones broke loose on a 74-yard touchdown run to make it 24-7 with 7:55 left before halftime.
The Bruins got some momentum right before halftime as they converted a fake punt as Derek Grainger hit Karon Evans for 32 yards down to the Stratford 15. Three plays later, Nick Jones hit Josh Johnson on a 10-yard pass to pull the Bruins within 24-14 with 16 seconds before halftime.
In the second half, the Bruins held Stratford to a pair of Tyler Tekac field goals but never got its offense on track. Stratford held Rodney Brunson to three yards rushing, and its man-to-man defense didn’t yield the big plays the Bruins’ offense was accustomed to all season.
“ Our defense played a great ball game and we have played great for last three weeks,” Stackley said. “It was a complete win.”
Jones finished with 207 yards on 20-of-41 passing, and David Vereen caught five passes for 62 yards.
ST 10 14 3 3 — 30
SF 7 7 0 0 — 14
SF — Rodney Brunson 1 run (Stephenson kick)
ST — Thompson 80 pass from Park (Tekac kick)
ST — Tekac 20 field goal
ST — Thompson 7 pass from Park (Tekac kick)
ST — Jones 74 pass
SF — j. Johnson 10 pass from Jones (Stephenson kick)
ST — Tekac 45 field goal
ST — Tekac 33 field goal