GOOSE CREEK – Hillcrest and Goose Creek traded blows all night Friday in a slugfest in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAA Division I playoffs. But the Rams’ final punch missed. Gustavo Martinez-Salas’ last second field goal sailed no good as Goose Creek held on for a 50-49 win.
“I promise if you talk to any professional or collegiate kicker, this is the kind of experience that will make Gustavo better in the offseason,” Hillcrest coach Greg Porter said of his sophomore kicker. “We wish that he didn’t experience that, but … it could have gone either way.
“I’m proud of our team. Our players played extremely hard.”
That the reigning state champion Rams (10-3) were even in a position for the win was a testament to that effort that Porter spoke of.
When Goose Creek 5-11, 262-pound running back Evan Ulery scored from one yard out with 39 seconds left it pulled the Gators to within one at 49-48. All of Hillcrest’s worst fears were realized when the Gators, whose ground game battered the Rams for 416 rushing yards in the game, lined up to go for two. Ulery bulled his way into the end zone to give Goose Creek the one-point lead.
On Hillcrest’s ensuing drive the Rams were faced with 3rd-and-25 with 23 seconds left when senior quarterback Collin Sneed hit senior wide receiver Brian Spurgeon on a 49-yard gain to Goose Creek’s 29-yard line. Sneed then threw for 17 yards to senior Quentin Martin to the Gators’ 12-yard line to set up the 29-yard field goal attempt with four seconds left.
Hillcrest outgained Goose Creek 528-468.
“This was a great senior class. They did an excellent job,” Porter said. “We came so close, but fell so short.”
Goose Creek’s final drive of the first half saw the Gators run to Hillcrest’s six-yard line before quarterback Dominique Jefferson was intercepted by Martin in the end zone to preserve a 28-21 Rams lead at the half.
After that errant throw to end the first half, Goose Creek did not attempt a pass in the second half. Instead, Jefferson hurt Hillcrest with his feet. On the opening drive after halftime, Jefferson had a 36-yard run to the one-yard line where 5-foot-9, 245-pound Leandre ‘Cornbread’ Legree powered in for his third touchdown.
After Goose Creek’s defense forced Hillcrest’s only three-and-out of the game, Jefferson gave the Gators a 34-28 lead with a nine-yard touchdown run. The PAT failed after a fumbled hold.
The Rams answered on their ensuring drive as Sneed completed 5-of-5 passes. Shrine Bowl linebacker Tori Delesline capped the drive when he powered his way into the end zone from five yards out on his only run of the game as Hillcrest took a 35-34 lead.
After Hillcrest’s defense came up with its only three-and-out of the game, the Rams appeared to be in good shape for a victory with a 14-play scoring drive. The drive began in the third quarter and ended with 6:47 left in the game when Quendarius Jefferson scored on a one-yard run as Hillcrest extended the lead to 42-34.
Goose Creek’s Jefferson answered quickly though with a 48-yard touchdown with 4:30 to go. Legree bulled his way into the end zone on the two-point conversion to tie the game 42-42.
Spurgeon returned Hillcrest’s ensuing kickoff 47 yards to Goose Creek’s 33-yard line. Four plays later, Jefferson scored on a five-yard run as the Rams regained the lead 49-42 with 3:28 to play.
Goose Creek’s final scoring drive was boosted with back-to-back offsides penalties by Hillcrest on the kickoff and another offsides penalty that gave the Gators a first down on a 3rd-and-5 play near midfield.
In his final game of an outstanding career for the Rams (10-3), Sneed completed 22-of-27 passes for 247 yards and led the team in rushing with 118 yards on 13 carries. Spurgeon, a North-South All-Star, had 12 catches for 161 yards.
Goose Creek’s Jefferson had 135 yards rushing on 14 carries, while Ulery had 125 on 16 attempts. Legree finished with 75 yards on 19 carries also for the Gators (9-3), who advance to play at Fort Dorchester next Friday.
“They did an excellent job with their running game,” Porter said. “I take my hat off to them and wish them luck as they continue to go through the playoffs.”
The Rams got the ball to start the game and went 66 yards on seven plays in just 1:48. Sneed scored on an 11-yard run to end the drive.
Goose Creek powered into Hillcrest territory on the ground on its opening drive, then Jefferson threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Dijon Profit.
Neither team faced a third down on their opening drive.
Hillcrest drove to Goose Creek’s eight-yard line on its next drive before both teams exchanged fumbles. After getting the ball back still in the red zone, Quendaris Jefferson scored from six yards out for the Rams.
After Legree scored from one yard out for Goose Creek, the Gators came up with an interception on a tipped pass. Legree capped the ensuing drive with a 2-yard touchdown run that gave Goose Creek its first lead.
The Rams responded with touchdown drives of 73 and 74 yards, respectively. Hillcrest threw just one pass on those two drives. Quintavis Ballenger scored from one yard out and Keith Humphrey scored on a 16-yard scamper as the Rams took a 28-21 lead.