Anderson churned through the slop for 160 yards and scored three touchdowns to power Stratford to its second straight win over rival Goose Creek, 32-14, in a Region 7-AAAAA clash.
Last season, the Charleston Southern commitment also scored three touchdowns to help the Knights end a 10-game losing streak in the series. The plan, especially in the first half, was to feed their top running back often.
“He’s definitely our best player and our workhorse,” Stratford coach Dennie McDaniel said. “We wanted to let him come out and set the tone for us tonight… The offensive line opened up holes and Mario always runs hard.”
Stratford (4-5, 2-2 region) ends the regular season at Wando on Friday. Goose Creek (4-5, 2-2 region) travels to Berkeley, which wrapped up the region crown with a 42-7 win at Cane Bay.
The Knights guarantee themselves a spot in the Class 5A playoffs if they can travel over to Mount Pleasant and win.
“Where we are in our program, we’re trying to build things,” McDaniel said. “We’re talking about taking that next step and being able to make plays. That’s what championship teams do.”
The Knights converted three fourth-down plays on their two scoring drives in the first half.
Anderson capped a 10-play, 65-yard drive with a 7-yard run in the first quarter and ended a 13-play, 76-yard drive on a 1-yard plunge with 8:08 left in the first half as the Knights built a 12-0 lead in the rain.
Goose Creek drove to Stratford’s 8 in the closing minute of the half but a bad snap led to a big loss back to the 35 and the Gators came up empty on the first of two fruitless trips inside the 10 in the game.
The next one was a backbreaker for the Gators.
Goose Creek opened the second half with an efficient drive to Stratford’s 2 but, instead of cutting into the deficit, the Gators coughed it up and couldn’t corral it.
Stratford linebacker Jordan Judge scooped up the fumble and raced 88 yards up the field for a touchdown to extend the Knights’ lead to 18-0 less than four minutes into the third quarter.
After a Goose Creek punt, Anderson scored his third touchdown on a 20-yard run to cap a 64-yard drive with 3:17 left in the third quarter.
“We got our behinds handed to us,” Winstead said. “It’s a great job by Coach McDaniel and his staff. He got their kids ready to play and I didn’t. It’s on me. We got outcoached. We got outworked.”
The Gators showed some fight, scoring twice in the fourth quarter to get within 25-14 on a pair of Emmanuel Mukuamu touchdown passes, but Stratford squashed any hopes of a comeback with a 14-yard touchdown run by Damarius Anderson with 2:43 left.
As for Stratford’s next game, Wando’s defense has been formidable on most nights this season. The Warriors tripped up Friday in overtime, falling to James Island 35-28, after beating Cane Bay a week earlier.
“Coach (Jimmy) Noonan and their staff do a great job,” McDaniel said. “Their defense is excellent. I know their kids will be up for the job. Their going to come after us a little bit. We need to have a great week of practice.”
The Gators have a daunting task ahead. The Stags (8-1, 4-0) are averaging 42 points a game while allowing 16. They scored 35 points in the second half to pull away from Cane Bay.
The top four teams in the region advance to the playoffs, which begin on Nov. 9. One other team in the Lower State will receive an at-large bid so a fifth team from Region 7 has a shot at the postseason.