The best offense is a good defense.
The good defense for the Berkeley Stags at Hilton Head on Friday was the two-headed beast that is Josh Simmons and Branden Williams.
Simmons picked off one of two Berkeley interceptions on the night, and Williams held North-South All-Star Khalil Lewis to minimal yardage as the Stags downed the Seahawks 26-6.
“Our defense stepped it up and played great,” said BHS Head Coach Jeff Cruce. “We had a great week of practice leading up to the Hilton Head game where I challenged these kids to rise up.
“They did, and now we’ve got some nice momentum heading into the playoffs.”
Damien Woods had the other interception on the Seahawks’ first possession that set the tone for the game.
“The old saying is championships are won on defense, and our defense did its job,” Cruce said.
Kicker Vance Bailey kept the Seahawk offense pinned with their backs against the end zone and kicked four field goals, the dagger to the Hilton Head heart coming in the fourth quarter, a career long 42-yard boot to put the Stags up by 20.
“After last week’s game against Orangeburg where Vance missed a field goal, this was a big confidence booster for him,” Cruce said. “We need a good kicking game and Vance gave us an excellent kicking game tonight, in harsh conditions, rain, and a very strong wind. It wasn’t the rain so much out there as the wind, and Vance drilled all his kicks.”
Joseph Dress and Josh Sellers added third quarter touchdowns to even Berkeley’s record at 5-5 and give Cruce his first non-losing regular season as coach of the Stags.
“Joseph has been battling injuries for the past month and while we didn’t have a great passing game against Hilton Head, he is a running quarterback,” Cruce said. “Josh Sellers gets better and better every week. He broke a huge run that helped put the game away.”
Sellers garnered 149 yards rushing, 77 of them coming on the touchdown run in the third quarter. Dress netted 76 yards rushing and a 26-yard touchdown run.
With the win Berkeley will open the playoffs against Myrtle Beach, which upset North Myrtle Beach 30-28.
“Myrtle Beach is a lot like us,” Cruce said. “They are a great program and can surprise you. I’m curious to see what they did to beat North Myrtle Beach and how they did it.”
On his first non-losing regular season Cruce said it’s about getting better every year.
“We’re improving and we’re doing things in this program that’s part of a plan,” he said. “I can schedule some weaker teams like some other schools do to pad their record, but for us here it’s about preparing to play the best schools in the state.
“We scrimmaged against Goose Creek, and played against Summerville, Stratford, and Timberland. I’ll put our pre-region schedule up against anybody’s.
“It’s not all about wins and losses. It’s about getting better and being prepared.”
For bracket watchers the win also moves Berkeley out of Socastee’s bracket. The Braves have bounced the Stags out of the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
“You have to beat everybody to win a state championship, but Socastee is on the other side of the bracket,” Cruce said. “If it’s not Socastee it’ll be somebody else.”
Kickoff Friday night in Myrtle Beach is at 7:30 p.m.