Dutch Fork knew stopping Goose Creek’s imposing option-rushing attack was going to be a monumental challenge, but the Silver Foxes never could find the magic formula.
Quarterback Dantez Bennamon led three runners with more than 100 yards, and the Gators bullied their way to a 35-21 victory in a battle of top-10 4A programs Friday night in front of about 7,000 fans.
It didn’t help the Dutch Fork cause that their top lineman and only two-way starter, Omar Staley, missed the game with an injury. Add in the fact that star running back Matt Colburn left with a hyper-extended right knee early in the second quarter and the Silver Foxes were fighting an uphill battle seemingly from the beginning.
“I’m not going to beat them up,” Dutch Fork Tom Knotts said. “We did some good things and we’ll build on those and correct the bad things. I’m not making excuses but two of our best players were over there on the bench with me. That’s hard, but our philosophy is the next man up has to do the job, and that didn’t happen.”
It was the 31st consecutive on-the-field win for Goose Creek. The Gators have not been defeated since the second game of the 2011 season but had to forfeit games last season when the South Carolina High School League ruled they used an ineligible player during the season.
Bennamon ran for 189 yards, Caleb Kinlaw added 120 and Evan McField chipped in 104 yards as Goose Creek (5-0) ran for 460 yards.
Knotts knew stopping the option attack was going to be difficult because the Silver Foxes seldom see that type of offense.
“When the quarterback is running down the field, I’m pretty sure it’s an option and somebody missed a responsibility,” Knotts said. “It’s hard to play the option when you don’t ever see it. They ran the football and kicked out butts.”
But even with the Silver Foxes (4-1) shortcomings on defense, the offense’s inability to convert short fourth-down yardage situations is what will haunt Knotts. Dutch Fork turned it over on downs five times — three coming inside the Gators 10-yard line.
“You have to score when you’re in the red zone,” Knotts said. “We’re usually pretty good. Maybe I should have kicked field goals, but we’ve usually been pretty good in the red zone. That’s four-down territory for me.”
Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy thought his defense was the difference in the game. After trailing 21-20 at the half, they pitched a shutout over the final two quarters and limited Dutch Fork to 141 yards of offense after allowing 318 in the first half.
“I thought our defense played as well as they could possibly play against a good, quality football team like this,” Reedy said. “To hold them to 21 points, stop them on fourth down numerous times and on the goal line numerous times. I thought they did a tremendous job.”
The Gators scored on their first two second-half possessions. Kinlaw scored from 19 yards out on the first drive and Tyrik Johnson added an 18-yard scoring run with 49 seconds remaining in the third quarter to complete the scoring.
“We felt like we were doing everything we needed to do,” Reedy said. “We told the kids at halftime to keep doing what they’re doing. I thought we played physical. We were able to run the ball and control it, which is what we needed to do.”
It didn’t look like either offense could be stopped in the early going. McField opened the scoring with a 2-yard run on the first series. Dutch Fork answered with a 7-yard pass from Derek Olenchuk to Deion Frasier before Bennamon raced 57 yards on the next Gators series to give them a 14-7 lead.
Dutch Fork turned it over on downs the first time when Colburn was stopped on a fourth-and-goal from the Gators 2-yard line. He took a shot to the knee and didn’t return.
Bennamon added an 83-yard scoring run to increase the lead to 20-7 and it looked like Dutch Fork was on the brink of getting blown out. The defense came to the rescue by recovering fumbles on the next two Gator drives and Dutch Fork turned them into 95- and 85-yard scoring drives.
With Colburn sidelined, Olenchuk threw for 361 yards and three touchdowns but it turned out not to be enough.
“We had to go to the pass but we were inconsistent throwing,” Knotts said. “Sometimes we were really good, sometimes we weren’t. We aren’t good enough to be inconsistent against a team like Goose Creek.”
GC – Evan McField 2 run (kick blocked) 8:09
DF – Deion Frasier 7 pass from Derek Olenchuk (Tyler Bass kick) 4:51
GC – Dantez Bennamon 57 run (Caleb Kinlaw run) 3:57
GC – Bennamon 83 run (kick failed) 10:24
DF – Austin Connor 27 pass from Olenchuk (Bass kick) 5:56
DF – KJ Williams 7 pass from Olenchuk (Bass kick) 0:24
GC – Kinlaw 19 run (Kinlaw run) 6:15
GC – Tyrik Johnson 18 run (Alex Jacobus kick) 0:49