For the first time since 2004, the Stratford High football team is headed to the state championship game.
Stratford defeated South Pointe, 36-13, on Friday night to advance to the Class AAAA Division-II state title game next Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The Knights (12-2) will play the state’s top-ranked Northwestern Trojans (14-0) at noon.
On Friday night, senior quarterback Jacob Park threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for one score to lead the Knights to a dominating victory. Park, who threw an interception on the third play of the game that was returned for a touchdown, completed passes to several different receivers as the Knights rarely tried to run the football.
“We knew their defensive front was very good so we felt we could move Jacob around some and get rid of the ball quickly,” said Stratford coach Ray Stackley.
“The first interception really wasn’t on him. We had several things go wrong on that play. But I was proud of our football team for putting it behind them and moving forward.”
Stratford’s defense was the story of the game. The Knights shut down South Pointe’s running game and limited the Stallions (11-3), who upset Goose Creek in the second round last week, to less than 150 total yards of offense.
“We basically shut them out,” said Stackley. “They got that pick-six and they scored another after a fumble deep in our end. I thought defensively we played about as well we could play. We’ve been playing pretty good defense the last few weeks and they were pretty good tonight.”
After Josh Massey’s interception return for a score, the Knights answered with an 80-yard drive.
Park connected on a 17-yard completion to Jordan Johnson and another of 33 yards to Tyree Scroggins to put the Knights at the 4-yard line. On third-and-goal from the six, Park took off toward the goal line, leaving his feet for the score and tying the game at 7 with 7:17 left in the first quarter.
Stratford’s next possession netted a 28-yard field goal from Tyler Tekac, and a 7-yard Park pass to Christopher Allen upped the lead to 17-7 with 8:54 left in the second.
After a Stratford fumble late in the second, South Pointe’s Josh Brice scored on an 8-yard run to cut the lead to 17-13 at halftime.
Both defenses settled in during the third quarter, but the Knights got rolling midway through the period.
A high punt snap resulted in a Stratford safety with 6:46 to play. After the free kick, Park and Johnson combined on a 51-yard touchdown pass as Johnson took a short throw and tight-roped the sideline for the score and a 26-13 lead.
Park connected with Jared Terhune on a 39-yard pass with 9:17 left in the game and Tekac closed out the scoring with a 27-yard field goal with 7:02 remaining.
South Pointe 7 6 0 0—13
Stratford 10 7 9 10—36
SP — Josh Massey 30 interception return (Kyle Hix kick)
ST — Jacob Park 6 run (Tyler Tekac kick)
ST — Tekac 28 field goal
ST — Christopher Allen 7 pass from Park (Tekac kick)
SP — Josh Brice 8 run (kick failed)
ST — Safety
ST — Jordan Johnson 51 pass from Park (Tekac kick)
ST — Jared Terhune 39 pass from Park (Tekac kick)
ST — Tekac 27 field goal