Goose Creek -- As far as stinging defeats go, this one was one of the worst Stratford High School coach Ray Stackley believed he'd ever experienced.
Sumter scored 24 unanswered points in the final 18 minutes to steal a 31-28 victory, from the Knights on Ethan Epps' 30-yard field goal at the horn.
It was a second-chance opportunity for Epps, who hooked his first attempt. But Stratford was flagged for running into the kicker, capping a nightmarish evening on special teams.
"This is probably one of the toughest I've endured," Stackley said of the loss that dropped his team to 0-2. "We had the game well in hand."
Moments earlier, after Sumter's Kameron Dunnican's 70-yard touchdown catch tied it with 2:10 left, Stratford muffed the ensuing kickoff, setting up Sumter at the Knights' 25.
The Gamecocks moved down to Stratford's 18 and ran the clock down to 2 seconds. Epps' second try was perfect after he moved up 5 yards.
"We just weren't playing tough," said Sumter coach Paul Sorrells, whose team blew a 10-point lead in under four minutes to lose last week to rival Crestwood. "We were sort of acting a little bit on the baby side. I think they grew up a lot tonight."
The Gamecocks (1-1) used the big play to get back in it. Stratford led comfortably 28-7 with 6:42 left in the third quarter after DaQwan Richardson returned a fumble 15 yards for a score when a high snap got away from the Sumter punter.
The unraveling began from there as Sumter's offense came to life.
The Gamecocks had just 61 yards of before the comeback.
The Gamecocks' Robert Ross then turned an ordinary screen pass from Mic Davis into an 87-yard touchdown down the sideline to make it 28-14, then Jason Dozier capped the next possession on a 54-yard touchdown run with 3:04 left in the third quarter after a roughing the punter on Stratford resuscitated the drive.
Sumter's first score was an 83-yard return of a blocked field goal by Mariel Cooper. The Knights also had a punt blocked in the loss and missed another field goal.
"It was a game of runs and, when they made the last run, we didn't respond," Stackley said.
Davis was 12 of 23 for 213 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for Sumter.
Stratford freshman quarterback Jacob Park was 11 of 22 for 128 yards and a 25-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Barnwell in the third quarter. He also dove one in from the 1.
Devin Washington added a 5-yard scoring run for the Knights. Barnwell led the Knights in rushing with 85 yards on 17 carries.
S - Mariel Cooper 83 yard blocked kick return (Ethan Epps kick)
ST - Devin Washington 5 run (Cole Rymer kick)
ST - Jacob Park 1 run (Rymer kick)
ST - Ryan Barnwell 25 pass from Park (Rymer kick)
ST - DaQwan Stephens 15 fumble return (Rymer kick)
S - Robert Ross 87 pass from Mic Davis (Epps kick)
S - Jason Dozier 54 run (Epps kick)
S - Kameron Dunnican 70 pass from Davis (Epps kick)
S - Epps 30 FG
Go to hsprepzone.com for complete high school football coverage, including stories, photos and videos.