Berkeley blisters Trojans in Region 8-AAA opener

Berkeley's Matthew Harkness tries to slip away from James Island's Devin Douglas at JICHS on Thursday night October 3, 2013. Wade Spees/Staff

Few teams in the Lowcountry played a tougher non-region schedule than Berkeley did over the last month. That difficult schedule may have paid off Thursday night as the Stags evened their record at 3-3 with a 40-14 region 8-AAA win over James Island.

The win was Berkeley’s second straight after beating Timberland last week. Berkeley’s three losses this season came to Summerville, Stratford and Manning, who have combined for a 13-2 record through five weeks.

“I think the tough schedule has helped us a lot, not only because of the quality of teams that we played, but four of those five games were against pretty big rivalries,” said Berkeley head coach Jeff Cruce. “I think we’ve been in some big games early on and the intensity level is high in those games. I thought we were pretty focused tonight. It’s a big win for us to start the region 1-0.”

Senior quarterback Matthew Harkness threw two touchdown passes, and the running back tandem of Josh Sellers, Leon Simmons and Jamal Bowman combined for nearly 200 yards on the ground to pace the Stags.

“We had to play three quarterbacks, which is not what we want to do, but we had pretty good balance,” said Cruce.

Berkeley got on the board early in the first quarter on Vance Bailey’s 41-yard field goal. A fumble deep in the Stags’ own territory set up James Island’s first score as quarterback Ty Stubbs scored from a yard out with 5:36 left in the first quarter, giving the Trojans a 7-3 lead.

James Island’s first big mistake contributed to Berkeley’s first touchdown. The Stags recovered a muffed punt at the James Island 20-yard line, and two plays later Harkness hit Deion Williams with a 20-yard TD pass, giving Berkeley a 10-7 lead with 1:14 left in the first.

Berkeley tacked on a score in the second on Bowman’s five-yard run with 5:19 remaining before halftime. The drive was set up by a 23-yard run from Sellers and Bowman’s 19-yard run to the five.

Harkness threw his second touchdown pass of the night late in the third quarter, a 10-yarder to D.J. Witherspoon, to push Berkeley’s lead to 24-7 with 2:26 left in the third.

James Island showed signs of life on the ensuing drive, marching 76 yards for a score as Stubbs combined with Trayvon Grant on a 17-yard pass with 1:18 to remaining in the third period.

Berkeley tacked on two touchdowns and a safety in the fourth quarter. Tyrone Bradford returned an interception 42 yards for one score, and Leon Simmons scored on a one-yard dive.

Berkeley will place Region 8 favorite Hanahan next week.

“Certainly we will have to be at our best to compete with those guys,” said Cruce.

Berkeley 10 7 7 16—40

James Island 7 0 7 0—14

B – Vance Bailey 41 field goal

JI – Ty Stubbs 1 run (Hutch Fontane kick)

B – Deion Williams 20 pass from Matthew Harkness (Bailey kick)

B – Jamal Bowman 5 run (Bailey kick)

B – DJ Witherspoon 10 pass from Harkness (Bailey kick)

JI – Trayvon Grant 17 pass from Stubbs (Fontane kick)

B – Leon Simmons 1 run (Bailey kick)

B – Tyrone Bradford 42 INT return (Bailey kick)

B — Safety – Grant tackled in end zone