By CHRIS DEARING
COLUMBIA — The night couldn’t have started better for Dutch Fork in Friday night’s showdown with second-ranked Goose Greek.
Jordan Berry caught a pass between two defenders, broke a tackle at midfield and raced 76 yards for a touchdown on the game’s first play.
But it was the Gators who finished things.
In typical smash-mouth fashion, Goose Creek ran off two long, second-half scoring drives and continuously throttled the Silver Foxes in the red zone to come away with a hard fought, 28-17 victory at Dutch Fork, the Gators’ 18th straight win.
“Dutch Fork is a very good football team,” Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy said. “It was the first time we were really challenged all year, and I’m really proud of the way we responded. We hung in there, and finally in the second half, started playing more of our style.”
The Gators trailed for the first time all season but never seemed rattled. They controlled the ball nearly 15 minutes in the second half and put together their best two drives after Dutch Fork took a 3-point lead in the third quarter.
The first drive covered 72 yards in 15 plays and consumed 5:37 of the clock. Rico Blanding scored his second 1-yard touchdown to push the Gators ahead with 2:49 remaining in the third quarter. They converted two fourth downs and a third down on the drive.
The Gators were 4-of-10 on third down and 4-of-4 on fourth down.
“We couldn’t get off the field when we needed to,” Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts said. “We have trouble getting off the field on third and fourth downs. We’ve gotten better, but it didn’t work tonight.”
Dutch Fork (2-3) answered with an impressive drive but was stymied inside the red zone for the third time in four trips. They went 59 yards in 13 plays and had the ball at the Goose Creek 9-yard line, but two straight pass plays fell to the turf. They botched the snap on a 26-yard field goal attempt to end the scoring threat.
In six trips inside the Gators’ 20, Dutch Fork came away with 10 points. They missed a field goal, had a pass intercepted in the end zone and turned it over on downs on their other trips.
“I would have put my reputation on it, when we get in the red zone, we score,” Knotts said. “That’s what my teams have always done. I don’t know what happened. We botched two field goals and threw two bad passes on slants. You get in the red zone and you have to score. That’s the story of the game.”
Rahsard Alston capped a 14-play, 78-yard drive with an 8-yard scoring run with 2:56 remaining. The drive consumed 6:17 of the fourth quarter and ended the upset hopes.
The Silver Foxes moved the ball to the Gators 20-yard line but turned it over on downs with a minute remaining.
“They did a great job of moving the ball between the 20’s but I thought our defense did a great job when we needed too,” Reedy said.
erry was sensational in defeat. The senior had 15 catches for a school-record 230 yards, but Dutch Fork’s inability to cash in was to much to overcome. Derek Olenchuk finished 29-for-39 for 356 yards, with one TD and one interception.
The interception came on a deflected pass in the end zone with 5 seconds remaining in the first half. The ball glanced off of Berry and another defender before being picked out the air.
That was a big momentum shift according to Reedy.
“We go into the half with a four-point lead even though it seemed like we were behind,” Reedy said. “Being able to make them come away with no points right there was a big deal for us.”
DF – Jordan Berry 76 pass from Derek Olenchuk (Tyler Bass kick)
DF – Bass 27 FG
GC – Dantez Bennamon 31 run (Masamitsu Ishibaski kick)
GC – Rico Blanding 1 run (Ishibaski kick)
DF – Trey Gregg 10 run (Bass kick)
GC – Blanding 1 run (Ishibaski kick)
GC – Rashard Alston 8 run (Ishibaski kick)