In 2011, Goose Creek hosted a Saturday afternoon season opener against University High of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The Gators lost that high-scoring affair, 52-51, in double overtime. It would be the only loss Goose Creek would suffer during a state title run.
Since that day, Goose Creek head coach Chuck Reedy has had the idea of taking his own team on the road for a long trip against an out-of-state opponent. Three years later, Reedy and the Gators are getting that chance.
Goose Creek will open the 2014 season Saturday afternoon in Dayton, Ohio, as part of the Backyard Blitz. The Gators' opponent will be Pickerington Central High, a team that finished 9-3 last season. Goose Creek's game is part of a doubleheader showcase event.
"This is something I have wanted to do for our program and for our kids for a while now," said Reedy, who begins his 13th season at Goose Creek. "We actually were looking at opportunities to play in Texas, Florida and New Jersey when this group contacted us about their event. Apparently, a gentleman from up there that had ties to their event had connections here in Goose Creek and knew a lot about the success of our program so they called."
The Gators left early Friday morning for a nine-hour bus ride, with plans to lunch in Knoxville, Tennessee, before reaching their hotel in Cincinnati. After a walk-through, the team will return for dinner. Kickoff is Saturday at 4 p.m.
The football program raised about $20,000 in advertising sales for the home game program to help defray the cost of the trip. The organizers of the event pay for the team's hotel stay and provide a pre-game meal on Saturday. All other expenses belong to Goose Creek.
Reedy says the opponent, Pickerington Central, is a typical Ohio football program.
"First off, they are well-coached, we can see that," said Reedy. "They are a tough, physical, power football team. I'm quite impressed on film. They have kids that really play hard and you can tell it's a traditional football program."
Reedy also says that many of his players have never traveled far from Goose Creek and he felt the experience would be special for his team.
"It's great for them, an opportunity to do something different and to do something no Goose Creek football team has done before," the coach said. "We hope it is something they enjoy being part of. And, of course, we certainly want to go there and play well and win. We want to represent our school, the Lowcountry, and the state of South Carolina as best we can. At the same time, we will learn a lot about our football team against a quality opponent. I think it's a great idea for this team, but we'll see how smart I am after Saturday."
Saturday's game will be one of two marquee matchups with an out-of-state team for Goose Creek this season. On Sept. 26, the Gators will host Eastern Christian Academy of Maryland. ECA opened the season last week with a 58-56 double-overtime win over another in-state top 10 team, Spartanburg.