For the second time in as many years, Hillcrest’s football team is headed to the coast the day after Thanksgiving.
The sixth-seeded Rams (10-2) will make the 185-mile jaunt to Berkeley County to take on third-seeded Goose Creek (8-3) in a Class AAAA Division I second-round playoff game Friday night.
“We have a little experience with this road trip, so we’re excited about it,” Hillcrest coach Greg Porter said.
Last year, on the way to their first state championship, the Rams traveled to Fort Dorchester for a third-round game the day after Thanksgiving and beat the Patriots 20-0, clinching a berth in the state final.
This year, the playoffs were pushed back a week because of the flooding in the state, and, thus, it’s a second-round game.
Regardless, eight of the Rams played in the game against Fort Dorchester, and numerous others made the trip.
Goose Creek went 119-47 in 13 years under Chuck Reedy, who stepped down following the 2014 season. Chris Candor now coaches the Gators.
“They definitely still have that powerhouse tradition down there,” Porter said. “They run the ball extremely well — big fullbacks, aggressive defense, a very good team with a rich tradition.”
In Goose Creek’s 39-27 win over Carolina Forest in the first round, fullbacks Leandre Legree and Evan Ulery ran for 225 and 115 yards, respectively, and the Gators amassed 533 total yards.
“They have a real elusive quarterback that runs the option,” Porter said of senior Dominique Jefferson. “We really don’t see teams run the triple option, so we’ve got to be real specific in our assignments and responsibilities and execute the game plan.”
Jefferson rushed for 258 yards and a touchdown and passed for 100 yards and two scores in the Gators’ season-opening, 29-20 win over Dutch Fork, the team Hillcrest beat in the state final.
Goose Creek then lost three consecutive games — against Ridge View, Summerville and Fort Dorchester — before winning its last seven.
Hillcrest has won its last three games, including a 41-7 first-round victory over Mauldin in which Collin Sneed threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns, all of them to Brandon Peppers.
Porter said the Gators’ size is impressive, but the Rams should be up to the task.
“We have some excellent teams in our region that are big and physical, and I thought we held our own against them,” Porter said. “I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s prepared us for this game.”