MOUNT PLEASANT — Randy Robinson hoped to solve Berkeley’s inconsistencies with patience.
The Stags coach urged his players not to overextend themselves early. In a region opener, with his team on the road, Berkeley was ready to explode during pregame. Robinson asked them instead to remain composed and take what Wando offered.
Everything Berkeley took seemed to turn into a score as the Stags rang up 20 points off turnovers in a 43-13 win at Wando on Friday in Mount Pleasant. Sophomore Luke Gadsden finished with a career-high 128 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries for Berkeley.
The Stags (4-1) scored off an interception and a fumble against Wando (3-2). They landed a safety, then scored on the ensuing possession. They scored after a missed field goal, and just for good measure, ended the game with an interception returned for a touchdown in the waning seconds.
“We’ve been a roller-coaster ride so far. We can look real good at times and we can look real bad at times,” Robinson said. “Tonight, we took what Wando gave us, and that’s really when we’re at our best.”
Steven Graham pulled in an interception for the Stags five minutes into the opening quarter. Hakeem Meggett stretched out to reel in a 57-yard touchdown pass from Willie Chisholm one play later that lifted Berkeley ahead 6-0 early.
Wando answered nearly six minutes later as Braden Pritchard floated a 6-yard pass into the back corner of the end zone for Dillon McCarthy. But just as Berkeley had on its opening score, the Warriors missed the extra-point attempt to remain even with the Stags, 6-6, with just over a minute left in the first quarter.
Berkeley recovered a muffed punt a minute into the second quarter to begin its drive from the Warriors’ 38-yard line. Tykeim Haynes finished it 90 seconds later with a 2-yard touchdown plunge that opened a 13-7 Stags lead.
Jordan Miller sacked Pritchard for a safety midway through the second quarter. It led to an 11-yard score by Gadsden on the Stags’ ensuing possession that opened a 22-6 cushion with just over two minutes to play before halftime. Haynes, a senior, added 68 yards for the Stags' ground game.
“We were excited,” Gasden said. “Coach just told us to come out and execute and stay focused in the game and we did our thing.”
Wando showed some resilience, accepting 30 yards in penalties to charge 55 yards in the final two minutes of the half. Pritchard finished the rally with 12-yard rope to McCarthy that pulled Wando within 22-13 just 27 seconds before the break.
“Couple times in the first half you’re scratching your head, but credit Wando, they hit a couple things on us,” Robinson said. “We had to tighten up a few things on defense, disguise a few things and get a little more pressure on the quarterback, and it worked out well for us in the second half.”
While Berkeley cashed in on Wando miscues, the Warriors could not. Wando blocked a field goal on Berkeley’s opening drive only to give it back with an interception. The Warriors stopped the Stags on fourth-and-2 midway through the second quarter just to be stopped for a safety nine seconds later.
Ray Rivera recovered a fumble for the Warriors early in the third quarter. The Warriors punted away two minutes later. Will Bumgarner stole possession back with an interception at the Wando 1-yard line with the Warriors still trailing by just nine points. Wando punted that possession away too.
The Stags had waited long enough by then. Chisholm hit Jackie Willis on a 25-yard score that opened a 29-13 lead with a minute left to play in the third quarter. Gadsden broke free for a 64-yard score two minutes into the fourth quarter. Marcel Jackson sealed it with an interception returned 70 yards for the Stags’ final score with a 2.7 seconds left on the clock.
“You never win a region championship your first game in the region but this was a huge one tonight,” Robinson said. “As excited as we were last week, I think our kids played even better tonight and that’s exciting to see.”