Gators grab bragging rights, trophy

Andrew Marabella

Goose Creek linebacker Andrew Marabella (35) sacks Stratford quarterback Josh Davis (12) in the first quarter.

The Goose Creek Gators completed a perfect run through the Region 7-AAAAA slate and picked up an additional piece of hardware Friday in their regular-season finale.

One week after wrapping up the region championship, the Gators became the first winner of the Golden Goose trophy in the city rivalry with Stratford in a 27-7 victory at John Fulmer Field.

Goose Creek mayor Greg Habib introduced the Golden Goose trophy this week and it will be presented to the winner of the rivalry game moving forward.

“I’m proud of how they responded in the fourth quarter,” GCHS coach Jason Winstead said. “I told them at halftime the offense kept us in it against Berkeley and the defense kept us in it tonight. That’s just football. We really played poorly on offense for three quarters but played well when it mattered.”

The Gators (7-2, 5-0 region) scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull away and snapped a two-game skid in the series. They begin the Class 5A playoffs at home Friday against South Florence, the fourth-place team from Region 6-AAAAA. Goose Creek will be making its first playoff appearance since 2016.

“This is our first time but luckily our coaches have been in a lot of playoff games,” the second-year Gators coach said. “We’ll try to reset them. We’ve always told them it’s three seasons: five non-region games, five region games and hopefully five playoff games.”

Stratford finished the season 3-6 overall and 1-4 in the region.

The Gators scored a touchdown in the first and second quarters but turnovers derailed what could have been a much more productive half.

Malachi Taylor’s 16-yard touchdown reception from Emmanuel Mukuamu with 8:36 gave the Gators a 7-0 lead.

Mukuamu’s 25-yard touchdown run right up the middle with 9:38 remaining in the first half was followed by a missed extra point.

Stratford started drives at its own 1, 6 and 11 after Goose Creek turnovers.

More sure points eluded the Gators after Devante Pryor returned the opening kick of the second half 90 yards to Stratford’s 5. The possession ended with a missed 21-yard field goal.

Hanging around, the Knights closed within 13-7 on Damaris Anderson’s 2-yard run around the left side with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter. One play earlier, Anderson leapt up to grab a 36-yard pass from quarterback Josh Davis on fourth and 8.

Stratford went for it on fourth down at Goose Creek’s 38 on its next drive but Gators defensive back Darryl Capleton made an interception at the 6.

The Gators followed with their best drive, going 94 yards for some insurance. Mukuamu converted a third-and-2 with a 26-yard run to Stratford’s 40 then connected with Damon Mouzon two plays later on a 35-yard scoring strike with 7:33 left.

David Canady’s extra point made it 20-7.

Stratford didn’t go away, driving to Goose Creek’s 20, but the Gators made another fourth-down stand.

Gators running back Demetri Simmons finished off the Knights with a winding 66-yard touchdown run with 2:27 remaining.