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Balanced Berkeley edges rival Stratford, 34-27

Since losing their opener to Goose Creek, the Berkeley Stags have steadily improved and find themselves on the brink of a playoff spot after Friday’s 34-27 win over area rival Stratford.

Quarterback Trey Minor completed 14 of 19 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns while running back Leon Gadsden rumbled for 140 yards and a touchdown as the Stags rolled up nearly 400 yards in total offense in a balanced attack.

“Really pleased with the balance offensively,” Berkeley coach Randy Robinson said. “When we can throw it and run effectively, we have a pretty good offense. We had some problems on defense. We let them convert some big plays and it got close there at the end. But we found a way to win and this team continues to improve each week.”

The teams took turns scoring in the first half. After Berkeley went up 6-0 on a nine-yard pass from Minor to Austin Gray, the Knights answered with an 11-play drive and took the 7-6 lead on Jaedon Alston’s seven-yard run with 27 seconds left in the first quarter.

Stratford was unable to capitalize on a Berkeley fumble and ended up punting. The Stags proceeded on a 10-play, 67-yard drive with Gadsden scoring from a yard out to give Berkeley a 13-7 lead midway through the second quarter.

The Knights got a big kick return by Jayden Martino to the Stags’ 33-yard line and seven plays later Alston scored on a one-yard run for a 14-13 lead with 1:37 left in the half.

Berkeley needed less than a minute and only four plays as Minor completed four straight passes, the last a 20-yarder to Kyle Gill for a 20-14 halftime lead.

Berkeley took the first possession of the third quarter and went 75 yards on eight plays with Minor hitting Solomon Butler on a 25-yard scoring toss, pushing the lead to 27-14 with 8:21 to play in the third.

Near the end of the third period, Stratford hit the big play with Josh Davis hitting a wide open Brendan Carter on a 53-yard touchdown connection. The extra point was blocked and Berkeley held a 27-20 lead after three quarters.

Needing a stop, the Knights could not slow down the Stags. Berkeley went 76 yards on 14 plays to open the final quarter, scoring on a one-yard run sneak by Minor for a 34-20 lead with 5:21 remaining in the game.

On Stratford’s next play, Davis was hit by Jamar Smalls as he attempted a pass and the ball was intercepted by linebacker Jayvion Snow. But Stratford held the Stags on fourth down and went 85 yards for a touchdown with 52 seconds left in the game. An onside kick attempt went out of bounds.

Gray finished the game with 48 yards on three catches while Gill added 62 yards on three receptions. Davis passed for more than 65 yards for the Knights.

“There are no moral victories and I’m not happy that we lost this game but I am really proud of the fight this team had tonight,” Stratford head coach Dennie McDaniel said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win the game at the end. We just came up short but really proud of our effort and our fight.”

Berkeley will travel to Cane Bay next week while Stratford takes on city rival Goose Creek.

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