FLORENCE — In a high school football showdown between two 9-0 teams, Mother Nature made her presence felt.
Stratford and South Florence battled through rain, sometimes heavy, for four quarters and the Bruins handled the adversity much better, handing the Knights their first loss, 26-14, Friday night.
South Florence rolled up almost 400 total yards while limiting the Knights to 150. South Florence junior quarterback Nick Jones passed for 260 yards and three touchdowns and added a rushing score. Running back Rodney Brunson added 122 yards on the ground.
The Knights managed only 13 yards in the first half, while senior quarterback Jacob Park completed only one pass for 10 yards in the half. Park finished the night with 130 yards passing, completing 11 of 35 passes.
“They handled the conditions a whole lot better than we did, no question,” said Stratford head coach Ray Stackley. “We snapped the ball over the head a few times, couldn’t hold the ball.
“All the credit to South Florence though. They beat us physically. They caught the ball and we didn’t. They definitely deserved to win the game. No excuses. They played on the same field we did.”
With all the pre-game talk centering around the two offenses, it was Stratford’s defense that put points on the board early. Knights safety Taylor Morrison scooped up Brunson’s fumble and raced 60 yards for a 7-0 lead with 10:37 remaining in the opening quarter.
South Florence answered with a 61-yard drive, making it 7-6 on Jones’ six-yard run with 8:04 remaining. A bad snap on the extra point kept the score at 7-6.
The rains came harder late in the first quarter, and Stratford avoided disaster after two major mistakes. Stratford punter Tyler Tekac chased down a bad snap in the end zone and got away the kick, but South Florence began the drive on Stratford’s 25. The Knights’ defense, however, held on four downs with no points.
On Stratford’s second offensive play after the stop, Park fumbled the snap and South Florence recovered on the 29. Again, Stratford’s defense held with no points and led 7-6 after one quarter.
South Florence put together the best drive of the first half late in the second quarter, covering 80 yards on 15 plays with Jones connecting with Tabari Hines on a fourth-and-goal from the 17-yard line, giving the Bruins a 13-7 lead.
The rain subsided for most of the third quarter but Stratford’s offense continued to struggle. Jones and Hines capped the third period with a 63-yard scoring connection, upping the lead to 20-7 entering the fourth.
Jones continued his big night. With 8:41 left in the game, Jones completed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Josh Johnson.
The Knights’ offense got going late in the fourth, and Park combined with Jameak Jones on a 27-yard pass with 5:25 to play, trimming the advantage to 26-14.
Stratford 7 0 0 7—14
South Florence 7 6 7 6—26
Stratford – Taylor Morrison 60 fumble return (Tyler Tekac kick)
S. Florence – Nick Jones 6 run (kick failed)
S. Florence – Tabari Hines 17 pass from Jones (Austin Stephenson kick)
S. Florence – Hines 63 pass from Jones (Stephenson kick)
S. Florence – Josh Johnson 35 pass from Jones (kick blocked)
Stratford – Jameak Jones 27 pass from Jacob Park (Tekac kick)