MONCKS CORNER - The Joe Marion era at Stratford High School has officially begun, and in positive fashion.
Marion, who replaced Stratford's Ray Stackley as head coach this spring, led the Knights to a 38-21 road win over county rival Berkeley on Friday night. Marion had been an assistant at Stratford since 1988 before he was named to replace Stackley, who won 270 games in 29 seasons as head coach.
"It's a relief to get this first game out of the way," said Marion. "I'm proud of our football team. We started a little slow because we had to adjust to Berkeley's team speed, but I thought we did a good job for a first game. Now we can move on and focus on the rest of the season. I'm happy I got the first win out of the way tonight."
The victory was also the first for Stratford's new starting quarterback, senior Jamison Mobbs, who inherited the job from four-year starter Jacob Park, the 2013 Mr. Football now at Georgia.
Mobbs tossed a pair of touchdown passes to Van Harvey and finished the night with 180 yards passing. Senior running back Xavier Young added 135 yards rushing and scored twice. Stratford topped 400 yards in total offense.
"I thought Jamison was very consistent," said Marion. "We had some drops in the first half, but he was pretty sharp all night. He had command of the offense.
"We're a passing offense but we got behind that offensive line and really did a nice job in the running game. We had some issues with cramps tonight but overall it was a pretty positive night for us."
Stratford went three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, and Berkeley went 53 yards on a nine-play drive with quarterback Joseph Dress scoring on a two-yard run with 7:02 left in the first quarter. Dress finished the night with 174 yards passing and 83 yards rushing.
Mobbs and the Knights' offense got on track on its second possession. Backed up to its five-yard line, Stratford went 95 yards on 10 plays, with Mobbs rushing for 36 yards and passing for 30. Young capped the drive with an eight-yard run to tie the game at seven with 4:16 left in the first quarter.
Jacob Morrison intercepted a Dress pass and returned it to Berkeley nine-yard line on the next series. On the next play, Mobbs scrambled right and hit Harvey, who made a nice diving grab in the end zone to give Stratford a 14-7 lead with 3:18 left in the period.
Dress and the Stags answered with an 11-play, 80-yard drive, tying the game on the first play of the second quarter on Dress' one-yard dive.
Stratford's defense again set up the offense in good field position after Terik Johnson picked off a Dress pass at the Berkeley 45. Four plays later, Young bolted 31 yards for a score and a 21-14 lead with 9:34 to play in the second quarter.
Mobbs and Harvey combined again midway through the second quarter, this time on a 35-yard touchdown pass, pushing the Knights to a 28-14 lead with 6:37 to play.
Stratford's defense seemed to solve Berkeley's offense, limiting the Stags to only two first downs in the second quarter after allowing 130 yards in the opening quarter.
"I thought our defense played pretty well after the first quarter," said Marion.
The game turned in a big way early in the third quarter. The Stags took the first possession of the third quarter and Dress appeared to have scored on a 47-yard run.
However, the quarterback dropped the ball just short of the goal line and the loose ball rolled out of bounds for a touchback.
Stratford wasted no time in capitalizing as three plays later, Mobbs hit K.J. Givens on a 66-yard touchdown pass for a 35-14 lead with 8:44 remaining in the third.
Dress scored on a four-yard run with 9:07 to play in the game, cutting the lead to 35-21.
Stratford answered with a 37-yard field goal by Tyler Tekac, upping the lead to 38-21 with 5:01 left.
Berkeley will visit Summerville next week while Stratford takes on Sumter at home.