National pundits have been keeping a close eye on Goose Creek all season.
The Gators, the defending Class AAAA, Division II state champions, have won 24 straight playoff games. All but one of those came by a double-digit margin. They’re No. 1 ranked team in the state’s biggest class and have moved to No. 11 in the USA Today Super 25 national rankings. Another national publication put Goose Creek on its wish lists of teams to see play this season.
And senior Tramel Terry – one of the finalists for the state’s Mr. Football award – is attracting college coaches in droves.
Goose Creek now has another distinction that resonates on the Grand Strand.
Conway’s first-round playoff opponent.
The Tigers will head to Goose Creek Friday for the opening round, and make no mistake, a Conway win here would be the upset of the season in South Carolina.
“They’re pretty good, needless to say,” Conway coach Chuck Jordan said Saturday. “It’s not to say you don’t go in expecting to win, because you always do. But part of the key in a AAAA playoff schedule is getting good match-ups early.”
This isn’t exactly a dream scenario for the Tigers.
Goose Creek is averaging 47 points per game this year behind Terry, quarterback Dantez Bennamon and a slew of other very talented players. The Gators defense is giving up just 10 points per game.
It will Conway to the ultimate test, and it was a fate that almost didn’t happen. The Tigers entered their Friday game against Carolina Forest with a shot at winning Region VI-AAAA. They needed to beat the Panthers and have West Florence beat South Florence.
The latter happened. However, playing with star quarterback Mykal Moody – who last month was named both a South Carolina Mr. Football finalist and to the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas roster – Conway couldn’t pull off its own end of the equation.
Carolina Forest won the game 27-24 in double overtime.
As big as the game was, however, Jordan said there was no chance of putting Moody (thigh bruise) at further risk. Much like a week ago, Jordan echoed statements that he felt the player wouldn’t be able to defend himself.
“He could have played, but I’m never going to compromise a kid for a football game,” Jordan said. “I think everybody’s probably done that at some time. Experience helps you with that. At the end of the day, you do everything you can to be successful. But there are certain lines you don’t cross. Compromising a kid isn’t one of them.”
Jordan said that he won’t know Moody’s status for this week until possibly just before game time. Moody dressed out against Carolina Forest and went through pre-game warm-ups.
He could have played, but Jordan knew that playing him would be a risk both in the game and moving forward. Also without back-up quarterback Ethan Smith, who broke his left collarbone against Sumter last week, the Tigers went with third-string senior Sawyer Jordan, essentially the team’s emergency quarterback.
If Moody is unable to go again this week, Jordan will be asked to play against the state’s top team.
Either way, it’s not a favorable match-up for Conway, a team trying to win its first playoff game since 2008. In the last three seasons, the Tigers have lost to Stratford, Goose Creek and North Augusta.
All three of those games were on the road. Conway was also the No. 16 seed in the 2010 game at Goose Creek.
THIS WEEK’S PLAYOFF GAMES (with playoff seeds):
Class AAAA, Division II
No. 16 Conway (5-6) at No. 1 Goose Creek (11-0)
No. 2 Berkeley (5-6) at No. 1 Socastee (11-0)
No. 2 Myrtle Beach (10-1) at No. 1 Hanahan (10-1)
Class AA, Division I
No. 6 Battery Creek (6-5) at No. 3 Loris (7-3)
Class AA, Division II
No. 6 Aynor (8-3) at No. 3 Lee Central (7-3)