They face a crosstown rival that is No. 3 in the state, owns a 36-game winning streak on the field and is seeking its second state championship in three years.

That’s Stratford’s opponent next week: the Goose Creek Gators.

But Friday’s challenge will be just as daunting. Stratford, the No. 5 team in Class AAAA, travels to the Pee Dee to battle South Florence, the No. 6 team in the state.

The Knights arguably have the toughest two-game finale in the state beginning Friday when they put their 9-0 record on the line against the Bruins, who also are 9-0.

Stratford coach Ray Stackley knows his squad can’t be guilty of looking ahead.

“We have to focus on the game at hand,” Stackley said. “We’ve been working on that all week long. Goose Creek is our rival, same city, same region. We have to get focused on South Florence.”

The next two weeks will be critical when it comes to the point-system used to determine the playoff seeds in Class AAAA. Big wins against teams with impressive records enhance a team’s chances of playing at home for more than the first round.

The Knights are averaging 43.2 points on offense and have allowed 13.1 on defense. Stratford has two shutouts to its credit.

The Bruins are scoring 46.7 points a game and the defense is allowing only 10.5 points per contest.

South Florence’s offense is led by a pair of juniors: quarterback Nick Jones has completed 146 of 250 passes for 1,858 yards and 28 touchdowns; Rodney Brunson has rushed for 1,051 yards.

Stratford is led by Shrine Bowl selection Jacob Park, a quarterback with enough talent to receive national honors and attention during his recruiting process. He’s passed for 2,306 yards and 20 scores. He has talented receivers in Tyree Scroggins, Thad Thompson and Jordan Johnson. Johnson, who was picked to play in the North-South All-Star Game along with linebacker Cecil Johnson, has 594 yards on the ground.