It will be a football game that will have more black and blue than flash and glamour. Stratford and Goose Creek play football the old-fashioned way, relying on running games that wear down opponents and defenses that motor and hit until the whistle is blown.
The two teams meet at 7:30 p.m. today at Stackley Field, and bragging rights are attached to the showdown. The winner will be in control of its destiny in Region 7-AAAA play and the victor can plan to have a good seed when the playoffs roll around in November.
Both teams are 4-1 but could just as well be 5-0. Goose Creek lost, 52-51, in double-overtime to University School out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in Week 2, while Stratford is coming off a 14-10 loss to Summerville last week. Stratford's defense recorded nine sacks and held Summerville to 71 yards. But two turnovers gave Summerville 14 points -- and the win.
"Stratford is as big of challenge that we will face all year," said Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy, whose team has won 17 of its last 19 games heading into the opening game of region play. "Stratford should be 5-0. Stratford certainly should have won its game last week."
The Gators played Fort Dorchester last week, and Reedy expressed concern prior to last Friday that his team was an enigma and he wasn't sure how good his Gators really were. But the Gators proved to be dominant with a 56-7 win over a talented Fort Dorchester team.
"I think we played the best we did all season," Reedy said. "We played well on both sides of the ball. Now, we hope to improve and be a better team than we were last week."
The Gators steamrolled the Patriots with more than 500 yards rushing in their no-frills offense. Caleb Kinlaw was one of three Gators with more than 100 yards on the ground. He carried only 16 times and gained 150 yards while scoring on TD runs of 39, 26, 21 and 16 yards. He leads the team with 570 yards and averages 8.5 yards per carry. His older brother, Rodney, played running back for Stratford in the early 2000s.
Junior Tramel Terry, who has committed to Georgia as a wide receiver, has 440 yards rushing. Virgil Smalls, a 270-pound sledgehammer, has 361 yards and averages a touchdown once every five carries.
Goose Creek doesn't have a monopoly on good Lowcountry running backs. Devin Washington leads Stratford with 450 yards and seven scores. Jamar Stevens is averaging 5.8 yards per carry, while Noah Shuler averages 4.4 yards per tote.
The biggest contrast between the two teams is at quarterback. Goose Creek's Jaquan Marsh is considered to be the best option quarterback in the state, while Stratford's Jacob Park is one of the top drop-back QBs.
Park is only a sophomore and has passed for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns for the Knights.