Gamecocks fall to Stratford - Friday, September 03, 2004 at 19:43
GOOSE CREEK — At least by playing its game at Stratford a day earlier than planned, the Sumter High School football team can begin to forget its 35-14 loss to the Knights at W.L. Bonds Stadium Thursday night one day sooner.
For Sumter head coach Paul Sorrells, whose team drops to 0-2, it means one more day to get the Gamecocks back in playing shape for next week.
"We've got to be disciplined, didn't play very disciplined tonight," he said.
Stratford, which hosted the game a day earlier because of the threat of category 3 Hurricane Frances, got off to a slow offensive start, but settled down by the second quarter.
The Knights rushed for 119 yards in the first half. Quarterback Davon Greene finished the half with 80 yards passing after his first seven passes of the game fell down as incompletions.
"We've passed the ball really well all spring long, we're just a little bit off right now," said Stratford head coach Ray Stackley, whose team improves to 2-0. "We're working with a new center and three new linemen up front. A lot of times it looks like the quarterback is off target, but lots of times he's getting some people in his face and he's having to throw it over a rusher."
Greene finished the night 7-20 for 145 yards and two interceptions.
The Knights' defense on the other hand, was hot from the start. The Gamecocks' two longest runs from scrimmage in the first half, by quarterback Kendrick Pressley and running back Cedrick Smith, were both for four yards.
Stratford limited Sumter to 16 net yards on the ground on 40 rushing attempts. Its defense sacked quarterbacks Kendrick Pressley and John Kendrick four times in the game.
"We're pretty quick on defense," Stackley said. "We've got some guys up there on the front and some linebackers that are very fast. Sometimes it looks like they're getting blocked pretty good, but they close pretty fast to the football."
For most of the night, either Stratford pinned the Gamecocks back inside their own 20-yard line or Sumter gave the Knights a short field.
A high snap to Sumter punter Brian Przybyla on fourth and long at its own 36 gave Stratford possession at the Sumter 6. Greene scored on a 5-yard option keeper two plays later for the first score of the game with eight minutes left in the first quarter.
About a minute later into the game, the Knights' Isaac Johnson intercepted a Kendrick Pressley pass at the Stratford 42 and ran it back the Sumter six. Two plays later, Greene again punched the ball in on an option keeper to put the Knights up 14-0 with 6:25 left.
In the closing minutes of the first quarter, Stratford's Karl Pearson blocked a Przybyla punt attempt on fourth and seven at the Sumter 43. That block set the Knights up at the Gamecocks 30. On second and five, Jarrell Middleton burst into the end zone from 25 yards out to give Stratford a 21-0 lead with a minute remaining in the first.
"We just got off to a terrible start," Sorrells said. "We snap the ball over the punter, we basically gave them one (a touchdown) and threw an interception and gave them another one real close afterward. When you're young and inexperienced and you're trying to build a mentality of who you are, those kinds of things don't help. You've got to eliminate those things."
Sumter held Stratford at bay in the next quarter, but the Knights added a fourth score midway in the second. Przybyla threw an incomplete pass on a fake punt attempt — his second of the night — from the Gamecocks' 15 with just under eight minutes left. On the next play, Stratford's Devon Joseph scored from 15 yards out with 7:28 to give the Knights a 28-0 lead.
Sumter's only highlight of the first half came when it recovered a Greene fumble at the Stratford 16. Later, on fourth-and-4 at the Knights' nine, Pressley rolled right and found wide receiver Kelton Tindal in the end zone for a 9-yard TD pass with 1:38 left in the first half. Pressley's TD pass was the longest offensive play of the half for Sumter, but the Gamecocks' defense had some bright moments.
On Stratford's first drive L.J. Ramsey picked off a Greene pass to stop the drive cold. Unfortunately, as it did throughout the first quarter, the Gamecocks offense failed to pick up a first down.
Midway through the second quarter, defensive back Bobby Jones stopped an impending scoring drive when he intercepted a Greene pass around the Sumter 20 and ran back 35 yards to the Stratford 45. That possession, however, also resulted in a 3-and-out and a subsequent punt.
Stratford used a 7-play, 54-yard scoring drive, capped with Middleton's 2-yard TD run to open up the second half and go up 35-7 with 9:48 left in the third.
Sumter's running back D.J. Brunson was contained for much of the game, until he broke a 66-yard run to put the Gamecocks on the Stratford 14. Seven plays later Pressley hit Roshawn Mobley in the left corner of the end zone on fourth and goal from the 10. That play, with 3:03 left in the third, cut Stratford's lead to 35-14.
D.J. Brunson was the leading rusher for the Gamecocks, with 71 yards on five carries.
"We've got a long season and a lot of learning to do," said Sorrells, whose team hosts Spartanburg next Friday. "But we're going to stay positive, keep working and we'll get better."