Two Lowcountry football heavyweights traded blows on Friday night as Goose Creek and Fort Dorchester battled for the right to play for the Division I-AAAA state championship next Saturday.
Fort Dorchester’s Datron James scored on a 1-yard run with 42 seconds left in the game to push the Patriots into their first-ever state championship game, 42-35, over the visiting Gators.
“Great day for Fort Dorchester High School and these kids,” Fort Dorchester head coach Steve LaPrad said. “This football team, these young men, they are unbelievable. What a game this was tonight. All the credit in the world to Goose Creek. Gosh, it was a battle.”
Fort Dorchester will face Dorman, a 21-14 winner over Byrnes, at noon next Saturday in Columbia at Williams-Brice Stadium. Goose Creek finishes at 9-4.
The two teams met in September with Fort Dorchester winning, 20-13. Friday night’s game was all about the offenses as the teams combined for 869 yards.
Fort Dorchester sophomore quarterback Dakereon Joyner completed 11 of 16 passes for 208 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 67 yards and a score. James finished the night with 76 yards rushing and three scores and junior receiver Adonicas Sanders had six catches for 136 yards and a touchdown.
The Patriots finished the game with 375 yards while improving to 14-0 this season.
Goose Creek’s offense amassed 420 yards rushing and 494 total yards but was victimized by three turnovers — all in the red zone and all three resulting in Fort Dorchester scores. Senior fullback Evan Ulery rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Dominique Jefferson added 94 yards rushing and 74 yards through the air.
“I hate playing these option teams and I knew this was gonna be tough to stop,” LaPrad said. “We’re pretty darn good up front, but they are so dang big and strong. We held on and got some turnovers and that was the difference in the game.”
Goose Creek had two turnovers in the opening half, and Fort Dorchester capitalized on both. The first came on the Gators’ first offensive play and resulted in a fumble inside their own 10. Fort Dorchester scored three plays later with James plunging in from a yard out.
Goose Creek answered impressively on its next possession, driving 74 yards on 13 plays with Leandre Legree tying the game on a 1-yard run with 2:48 left in the first.
The Patriots needed only five plays to drive deep into Goose Creek territory but the drive was halted when Quintavis Davis picked off a Joyner pass at the 5-yard line and returned it 74 yards to the Fort Dorchester 19. Four plays later, Ulery scored from 7 yards to give Goose Creek a 14-7 lead with 11:36 left in the half.
Undaunted, Joyner directed a quick 64-yard drive, including a 31-yard shovel pass to Sanders for a 31-yard gain. A facemask penalty set up Joyner’s 1-yard run to tie the game at 14 with 9:57 remaining in the first half.
Goose Creek went 13 plays covering 63 yards but a scoring threat was halted when Jefferson’s third down pass to the end zone was picked off by Fort Dorchester’s Tabarious Hartzog. Four plays later, Joyner combined with Sanders on a 58-yard scoring pass to push the Patriots up, 21-14, with 3:04 left.
The Gators, however, went right back to work on the ground, using eight plays to cover 60 yards as Ulery tied the game with a 1-yard run with 25 seconds remaining in the half.
Goose Creek amassed all of its 208 yards on the ground in the half. Fort Dorchester tallied 265 total yards with Joyner accounting for 162 passing and 35 rushing yards in the half.
Goose Creek opened the third quarter with yet another impressive drive, using seven running plays to reach the Fort Dorchester 17-yard line. However, a third turnover ended the drive and resulted in a touchdown as Fort Dorchester linebacker DeAundre Peterson scooped up a fumble and raced 84 yards for a touchdown, giving the Patriots a 28-21 lead with 7:50 to play in the third. Peterson, unofficially, finished with 14 tackles on the night.
Once again, the Gators pounded out another scoring drive, covering 80 yards on eight rushes to tie the game on Jefferson’s 22-yard run with 3:42 to play in the third.
Fort Dorchester’s only possession of the third quarter resulted in a three-and-out, and Goose Creek took over on the Patriots 41-yard line after a 23-yard punt. A 30-yard pass from Jefferson to Dijon Profit — the first pass completion of the game — gave the Gators a first-and-goal at the Fort Dorchester 10-yard line.
Early in the fourth quarter, Ulery capped drive with a 1-yard run to give the Gators a 35-28 lead with 10:44 to play in the game. Again, the Patriots answered as James capped a 65-yard drive with an 11-yard run to knot the game at 35 with 8:11 remaining in the game.
Goose Creek’s next drive reached the Fort Dorchester 18, but the Gators faced a fourth-and-8 from the 23-yard line with under four minutes to play. Tyriq Martin appeared to gain the first down but fumbled with Fort Dorchester recovering on the 12-yard line with 3:45 to play.
Aided by two 15-yard penalties, the Patriots moved into Goose Creek territory with less than two minutes to play. James ran for 13 yards to the 2 before his game-winning run from a yard out.
Class AAAA Division 1
Fort Dorchester 42, Goose Creek 35
Dorman 21, Byrnes 14
Class AAAA Division 2
Lexington 38, Spartanburg 35
Nation Ford 30, Northwestern 22
South Pointe 27, Union County 12
Midland Valley 28, Myrtle Beach 14
Class AA Division 1
Dillon 51, Newberry 19
Paul Zoeller/Staff Fort Dorchester’s Datron James, facing and Tabarious Hartzog celebrate after defeating Goose Creek 42-35 Friday, Dec. 4, 2015 at Fort Dorchester.×
Fort Dorchester’s Datron James celebrates after scoring the game-winning touchdown Friday.×