#4 in the Series - - - Stratford Knights

All the conditioning is over, the strategy is being honed to a razor fine point and the intensity is about to reach a fever pitch. Two 13-0 teams meet in what will undoubtably be a all time classic game for the right to head to Columbia and play for all the marbles.

When the Knights rolled out on the practice field for spring practice this year I could not help but let the word "rebuild"(don't even tell Coach Stackley I thought that) roll off my brain and think that it would be the operative word to describe the Knights this year. After all the only player anyone could name off the top of the head at the time was Rodney Kinlaw.

Since then, we all know a lot more names like Patrick "Da Bus" Capers, Donnell Covington, Micheal Smalls, Manny Macklin, BW Yates, and Devon Green. My second mistake was thinking that Sophmore QB Matt Vaughn had a lock on the starting position.He and Devon Green traded starting rolls for the first 4 games. Devon Green has ended up the uncontested starter for the last 9 games.

My third mistake was assuming that we would be hard pressed to field a defense that could hang with a decent yard and point producing offense. Since opening day the Knights defense led by Seniors Manny Macklin and Derrick Covington have scored 6 shutouts on the year and have held opposing offenses to an average of less than 150 yards and 7.46 points per game. What was I thinking? Believe it or not, I was right about a few things. Coach Ray Stackley, Asst Head Coach, Tony Smith and the entire Stratford Coaching staff have done what they do every year.

That is take a raw group of 63 young men at the start of the year, test them, try them, mold them, shape them, drive them and press them harder than they have ever been pressed in their life. As always, there emerges a group of leaders among these 63 young men that lead them into battle each week. This year the Knights have two great leaders that are ever present on the field and set the example on every play. Defensively senior LB Manny Macklin has stepped up and led the defense in tackles. Pound for pound one of the hardest hitting linebackers I have ever seen. On offense senior superstar Rodney Kinlaw keeps the machine grinding on with his no holds barred style of play whether he has the ball or not, he will have a decisive impact on the result of the play. You look at the Knights as they are today and you have to ask; did they have any idea they would be here, at this moment preparing for a game that will decide who goes to the State Championship?

You darned right they did! Every coach and every player on that team made a commitment back in August to leave it all on the field, every night. So far, they have honored that commitment and it has paid off in the form of a 13-0 record and a trip to the semi finals against the top rated team in the state.

Will they prevail? They know. It will all come down to who leaves it all on the field when the final gun sounds. They say it's a game of inches and it is, but I think it's a game of desire. The plays have all been perfected the routes are perfect, the coverage is tight. The only thing left is….who wants it? I was wrong about a few things this year, this one I am not.

The Knights want it and they want it bad. See ya Friday night at the Rock. Bring a helmet and flack jacket cause it will be a war.

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