It’s only appropriate that Saturday’s Division II-AAAA state championship is set for high noon.
Jacob Park vs. Mason Rudolph
Stratford Team Northwestern
Senior Class Senior
6-4 / 210 Height/Weight 6-4 / 217
3,340 Passing yards 3,889
225-422 Att-Comp. 310-425
29 Passing TDs 56
13 Interceptions 7
237 Rushing yards 516
6 Rushing Tds 15
Georgia Committed to Oklahoma St.
Back in the day, that was the ominous time that shootouts took place in the wild, wild West.
WHAT: SCHSL Division II-AAAA state football championship
Who: Stratford (12-2) vs. Northwestern (14-0)
When: Saturday, Noon
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia
Tickets: $10 at the gate
Saturday, it will be a shootout of a different kind when Stratford quarterback Jacob Park goes up against Northwestern’s Mason Rudolph in a game that could harken back to the halcyon days of the old AFL when it seemed every play was a pass.
Saturday’s showdown is believed to be a first for the football-happy Palmetto State. Both Park and Rudolph have been selected to play in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, and Saturday’s clash at Williams-Brice Stadium will be the first time a state championship game will feature two Shrine Bowl quarterbacks.
But Park, who shows grace under pressure on the field and in press conferences, put everything in perspective this week.
“It might be good for headlines,” Park said. “But it’s not one-on-one. It’s 11-on-11.”
The quarterbacks have a lot in common. They both are 6-4. Both will play in the state championship and the Shrine Bowl. And, both will matriculate a month after the title game. Park will enroll at the University of Georgia and Rudolph at Oklahoma State.
Stratford’s Ray Stackley has seen plenty of top-notch quarterbacks in his 29 years as coach and saw some similarities between the two passers when he watched them take part in the Shrine Bowl combine.
“Both players have big arms,” said Stackley, whose team is 12-2 and seeking its first state title since 1999. “Both players have compact throws. Rudolph might be a little bigger, might weigh a little more. Jacob might be a little more athletic and can run the football, although Rudolph can run it too. Any way you look at it, both are pretty dadgum good quarterbacks.”
Park is in his fourth year as a starter and has improved every year. He showed great promise this past summer at the Elite 11 Camp, a showcase of the top quarterbacks in the country. Soon after, he was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-America Bowl.
He has completed 225 of 422 passing attempts for 3,340 yards and 29 touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 237 yards and another six touchdowns.
Rudolph has completed 310 of 425 attempts for 3,889 yards and 56 scores while rushing for 516 yards and five TDs.
Rudolph is the latest in an impressive line of quarterbacks to perform at the Rock Hill school. He replaced standout Justin Worley, who led the Trojans to the Division II-AAAA state title in 2010 before going to Tennessee.
“Mason transferred in from a private school,” said Northwestern coach Kyle Richardson, whose team is 14-0 and ranked No.1 in the state. “He attacked the job the same way that Worley did. He’s worked his tail off to get where he is today.”
Both teams also have talented wide receivers.
Park’s favorite targets are Thad Thompson and Tyree Scoggins. The duo has combined for 100 catches for 2,003 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Rudolph’s top target is 5-6 junior Dupree Hart, who has 93 catches for 1,390 yards and 22 TDs. Hart broke former Summerville star A.J. Green’s state record for career receptions last week and has 285 career receptions headed into Saturday’s game.
Saturday will bring down the curtain on Park’s and Rudolph’s high school careers. In a month, they’ll be off to college.
“Everything is happening really fast right now,” Park said. “The key is to take it one step at a time.”