When Goose Creek head football coach Jason Winstead was an assistant at South Pointe High in Rock Hill, he coached in 31 playoff games.
Winstead was part of a program that won five state titles in his seven years on the staff. At Goose Creek, his team is making its first postseason appearance since 2016 and the Gators have not won a playoff game since 2015.
Goose Creek hopes to change that Friday night when it plays host to South Florence in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs. The Gators (7-2) won the Region 7-AAAAA championship, but Winstead's message to his team this week has been that all of that success is in the past.
“During the regular season, if you have a bad night you get another chance to redeem yourself the following week,” said Winstead, now in his second season at Goose Creek. “From here on out, it’s one and done if you lose.
"The thing I have tried to stress this week is that we have to be more focused than we’ve been all season, in practice and on Friday night. The biggest thing is to not have a bad week of practice. Focus on what has to be done to advance to next week.”
South Florence (4-6) has one of the state’s top junior running backs in Hahsaun Wilson.
“The running back is good. Really good,” Winstead said. “He seems to have a 60- or 70-yard run in every game. They have a linebacker that’s playing in the North-South Game.”
The Gators are one of 22 Lowcountry high school teams competing in the state playoffs, which begin on Friday for both the S.C. High School League and SCISA.
Fort Dorchester is the only team in the area to complete the regular season without a loss, and has lost only two regular-season games since 2015. The Patriots are 9-0 as they prepare to face 7-3 Lexington. Lexington's losses came against Gilbert, Dutch Fork and River Bluff, all playoff teams this season. Lexington’s head coach is Perry Woolbright, who once served as Fort Dorchester’s offensive coordinator.
“He’s a good coach, comes from a coaching family and really knows the game,” Fort Dorchester head coach Steve LaPrad said. “He did a good job here. You could tell he was going to be a good head coach someday.
“Lexington has seven wins. It’s rare to be a region champion like we are and have a first-round opponent with seven wins. We have our work cut out for us.”
Oceanside Collegiate, which was 9-0 before having to forfeit four wins for using ineligible players, travels to 8-1 Andrews in what should be a very competitive contest. Andrews is the Region 7-AA champion.
First Baptist has played in three consecutive state championship games in SCISA, winning AA state titles in 2016 and 2017 before losing in the AAA final to Hammond last season. The 8-3 Hurricanes, coming off a loss to Porter-Gaud last week, open with Ben Lippen at home. First Baptist beat Ben Lippen, 28-21, earlier this season.
Porter-Gaud (5-5) travels to Laurence Manning (9-1).
FRIDAY'S KEY MATCHUPS
South Florence (4-6) at Goose Creek (7-2)
Coaches: David Prince, South Florence; Jason Winstead, Goose Creek
Key players: RB Hahsaun Wilson, South Florence; QB La’Norris Sellers, South Florence; QB Manny Mukuamu, Goose Creek; WR Aaron Mouzon, Goose Creek
Notes: Series is 1-1 all-time but the two schools haven’t met since 1993 ... Wilson has rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season ... Gators are Region 7-AAAAA champions and have won five straight games.
Prediction: Goose Creek 34, South Florence 12
West Florence (6-4) at Berkeley (7-2)
Coaches: Jody Jenerette, West Florence; Randy Robinson, Berkeley
Key players: QB Hale Emerson, West Florence; RB Terry McKithen, West Florence; QB Tre Chisolm, Berkeley; WR Solomon Butler, Berkeley
Notes: Second meeting between the school, with Berkeley winning in 2007 ... West Florence RB Terry McKithen has rushed for more than 1,400 yards ... Berkeley has won three straight games.
Prediction: Berkeley 35, West Florence 21
Lake City (4-5) at Bishop England (6-3)
Coaches: Ronnie Baker, Lake City; John Cantey, Bishop England
Key players: RB Avery Harrison, Lake City; QB Hilshon Bailey, Lake City; QB Cam Costa, Bishop England; WR Sullivan Clair, Bishop England
Notes: Lake City has a losing record against a tough schedule ... Panthers lost to undefeated Aynor, 40-39, last week ... Bishop England is coming off a 27-24 loss to Manning ... Bishop England is 5-3 all-time versus Lake City but the teams have not met since 2016.
Prediction: Lake City 33, Bishop England 30
— By David Shelton
FRIDAY’S PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
(All games begin at 7:30 p.m.)
Wando at Conway
Lexington at Fort Dorchester
West Florence at Berkeley
Cane Bay at Carolina Forest
West Ashley at River Bluff
South Florence at Goose Creek
Lugoff-Elgin at Summerville
Colleton County at Airport
Lake City at Bishop England
Latta at Timberland
Whale Branch at Philip Simmons
Eau Claire at Burke
Oceanside Collegiate at Andrews
Military Magnet at Cross
Bethune-Bowman at St. John’s
Porter-Gaud at Laurence Manning
Ben Lippen at First Baptist
Northwood at Trinity-Byrnes
Dorchester Academy at Pee Dee Academy
Palmetto Christian at Wardlaw
Clarendon Hall at St. John's Christian