Virgil Smalls rushed for 120 yards and scored four touchdowns to lead Goose Creek past North Augusta 49-6 Friday night before a standing room only crowd of more than 6,000 at John Fulmer Field.
The Gators (13-1) will take on Greenwood, a 36-21 winner over Ashley Ridge, next Saturday for the Class AAAA Division II state title at noon at Clemson’s Death Valley. The Yellow Jackets finished the season at 12-2.
This was the third straight year the Gators have advanced to the Division II-AAAA semifinals, only to fall in close games to eventual state champions Berkeley (2009) and Northwestern (2010).
The Gators never gave the Yellow Jackets a chance, scoring on seven straight possessions.
“We challenged the kids from the beginning of the season and they’ve responded each week,” said Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy. “We’ve come so close in the past two years that the kids set their goal on the state championship game and refused to let anything get in the way.”
The Gators’ option offense was a machine, rolling up 411 yards of total offense, including 339 rushing yards.
“If we didn’t make it all the way to the state championship game this year everyone would have been disappointed,” said Goose Creek quarterback Jaquan Marsh, who had 48 rushing yards and 72 passing yards.
While the 49 points and more than 400 yards of total offense will grab the headlines, it was the Gators’ defense, which caused four turnovers, that made the difference.
The Gators forced four turnovers, including two interceptions by linebacker Sean Jones. The Gators defense limited Vinny Miller to just 67 rushing yards on 18 attempts. Miller came into the game with more than 2,000 all-purpose yards.
“North Augusta is a very explosive team,” Reedy said. “They’d been able to score on everyone all season. Miller is a great back and we did a good job of containing him. We didn’t get a lot of sacks, but we got consistent pressure on their quarterback all night.”
After punting on their first two possessions of the night, the Gators responded with three straight scoring drives to end the first half. Smalls capped off two of the drives with TD runs of 1 and 3 yards. After a Jones interception, Caleb Kinlaw scored from six yards out to give the Gators a 21-0 lead at halftime.
“We didn’t want to let up at halftime,” Reedy said. “We didn’t want to give them any hope.”
The Gators put the game away with three more TDs in the third quarter. Tremel Terry’s 4-yard TD run put the game out of reach, 42-0, with 4:21 left in third quarter.
The game was delayed for more than 15 minutes when North Augusta defensive end Shane Lester was taken off the field in a stretcher after suffering a head injury. He was taken to a local hospital and released.
This will be Goose Creek’s first state appearance in the school’s history.
“It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work,” Reedy said.