Stags seek to end losing skid against Knights

  • Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rob Gantt/Independent Stratford has beaten Berkeley 13 of 16 times and enjoys a 20-10 advantage dating back to 1984.

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The 2014 football season kicks into high gear with a full slate of games on Friday night, Aug. 29.

Everybody’s playing.

Timberland will host an angry Hanahan Hawks team that lost a heartbreaker to James Island in Week 0.

Cross welcomes defending Class A state champions Hunter-Kinard-Tyler to Ravenell Stadium.

St. John’s gets its SCISA 8-Man Football seaon rolling against defending Region 1 champs James Island Christian.

And the Berkeley Stags look to go 2-0 on the young season and end a three-game losing streak against Stratford at Bonner Stadium in Moncks Corner.

The Stags last tasted victory against the Knights 42-28, to open the 2010 season, Jerry Brown’s final season at Berkeley.

While Berkeley had won two straight at that point, including during the 2009 state title run, the Knights had the Stags’ number for much of the Jerry Brown era.

Stratford has won three in a row since, and 13 of 16 in the series after last season’s 29-10 victory. The Knights lead 20-10 going back to 1984.

“It’s always been competitive,” Knights Coach Joe Marion said. “A lot of the games have been extremely close.”

In Week Zero, the Stags won their first season opener under Jeff Cruce and hope to keep the momentum going with a streak-ending win over the Knights.

“We have to tackle better on defense,” Cruce said. “Our offense played well. We executed well, but we have to continue to work on fundamentals on both sides of the ball.

Cruce said Stratford will be tough: “Stratford has beaten us a few times over the last few years and have great senior leadership and are well coached. They have a solid quarterback who can throw the ball. We have to play better than we played last week and that includes better execution on both offense and defense.

“This will be an exciting ball game as it always is when Berkeley plays Stratford.”

The game is Stratford’s first without longtime coach Ray Stackley in nearly 30 years.

Timberland looks to get its season off on the right foot against former Class AA foe Hanahan.

Coach Art Craig is looking to better prepare his team for the playoffs by scheduling tougher pre-region competition. Timberland has scheduled Hanahan, Crestwood, Cross, Bishop England and Berkeley in its first five games, which include three former state champs, and the Battling Bishops, two-time Class AA champs.

“Hanahan always presents a challenge,” Craig said. “They are a solid team and we have to come in and play our style of football if we look to compete against them.

“We have to minimize our mistakes and control the tempo of the game.”

Cross Coach Shaun Wright went and scheduled the defending Class A state champions in Hunter-Kinard-Tyler in the Trojan home opener.

“It’s all about getting ready for the region and the playoffs,” Wright said. “I’d rather be 2-4 against good competition than 4-2 against weaker opponents.”

Cross finished with a 6-6 record in 2013.

Wright said his program has had to deal with small school issues.

“As a whole we are a month behind in terms of team building, conditioning and building overall depth needed to compete at a level we need to compete at,” he said. “We have several kids who will have to play out of necessity that just came out on the first day of school.”

That might have been how the game was played back in the day, Wright added, but these days football is a year-round sport.

“We are a marked program,” he said.

The John McCall era officially begins at St. John’s Christian Academy this week against defending region champion James Island Christian.

McCall replaced Matt Gilbert. SJCA finished a disappointing 3-7 in 2013 and missed the playoffs one year after playing for the SCISA 8-Man Football state championship in 2012.

McCall said his team has invested the sweat equity over the summer months to prepare for the upcoming season.

“I’ve been really pleased with the team’s effort this summer,” he said. “This is James Island Christian, defending region champs, so we have to be ready.”

McCall hadn’t decided on a quarterback, letting returning starter Dustin Parsons and Faith Christian transfer Josh Carter battle it out in summer practice. McCall did say if one wasn’t the starter, he’d be playing in another position on offense.

“Josh may be the fastest player on the team and Dustin is tall, quick and has great hands. These two guys will be on the field somewhere, whether at quarterback, or wide receiver, or runningback.”

Kickoff for all games is at 7:30 p.m.

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