The Stratford-Berkeley rivalry is one of the best in the state.

The coaching matchup might be second to none.

Stratford coach Ray Stackley begins his 26th year as a head coach when the Knights travel to Gerald Moody Field for a 7:30 p.m. showdown today in Week 1 of the high school football season. Stackley owns a 234-82 record and one state championship.

His counterpart is Jerry Brown, who is in his 28th year as a head coach. He owns a 228-102 record and four state championships -- including three at Berkeley.

The two joined forces in 2000 as Shrine Bowl coaches with Stackley directing the South Carolina defense and Brown running the offense. The result was overwhelming, as the Sandlappers posted a 66-14 victory over the North Carolina squad.

"Stratford has been good to Ray, and Berkeley has been good to me," said Brown, whose team posted a 14-1 record and won the Division II-AAAA state title last December.

Stratford is coming off a 7-5 record last fall to end a string of back-to-back subpar seasons. Prior to that, Stratford had a 10-year run that included a 118-18 record and a state title.

The Knights haven't returned to that form just yet, but a victory tonight would go a long way in proving the Knights are back among the elite teams in the Palmetto State.

Berkeley competed at the Class AAAA level for four decades, but now drops down to Class AAA for at least the next two years.

"It's been a huge rivalry game," Stackley said. "This is a game for all of Berkeley County. We could not afford to lose this rivalry -- and the gate. It's kind of new to play such an important game in the first week of the season."

Last year, Berkeley jumped to a 35-0 halftime lead and cruised to a 55-30 victory as quarterback Bruce Ellington ran for 209 yards and five touchdowns. He and running back R.J. Robinson graduated, but there still is talent in Moncks Corner.

Berkeley quarterback Tevin Bradshaw gained some experience last fall, and running backs Rahkeem White and D.J. Weathers will move the chains.

The Knights will start freshman Jacob Park at quarterback. He'll be joined by veteran running backs Devin Washington and Ryan Barnwell.