It had to end sometime.
For the first time in four years, Northwestern will not play for a state championship. The youthful Trojans, who had a good season despite losing a multitude of seniors from a state championship team a year ago, fell to Goose Creek 41-7 on Friday in the second round of the Class AAAA Division II playoffs.
"We've had a great year," coach Kyle Richardson said. "If you'd have told me at the beginning of the year that we'd have an eight-win football team and be here playing Goose Creek, I wouldn't have believed you.
"We've got a bunch of young guys and we're in a position to be very strong next year. I'm very proud of my team."
The Gators (12-1), top seed in the bracket and only two wins from their first state title, gained a measure of revenge from last year, when Northwestern went through them to get to state. Like last year, they used their deadly rushing attack to set the Trojans back on their heels, and unlike last year, Northwestern simply didn't have the firepower to overcome it.
The Gators popped a surprise pass to score their first touchdown. Goose Creek also took advantage of a bobbled-and-incomplete fourth-down pass from the Trojans (8-5) for great field position and a second touchdown.
But the Gators delivered their biggest punch in the second quarter. After Northwestern had driven to the Gators' 20-yard line, Gerald Turner intercepted Mason Rudolph and galloped 80 yards for another score.
The Trojans forced a fumble through the end zone as the Gators were attempting to make it 28-0 before halftime, but that was one of the only bright spots. Northwestern trailed 21-0 at the half and its vaunted "Air Raid" offense was derailed due to penalties, incomplete passes, pressure on Rudolph and interceptions.
Northwestern's defense bent -- it missed just enough tackles and allowed just enough passes to let the Gators to get in sync.
The Trojans benefited from two pass interference calls and scored when Rudolph hit Rontavius McClure with a fourth-down pass, then got a fumble at the Northwestern 3-yard line. But a sack negated a first down, the possession became a punt and Goose Creek went 56 yards in eight plays for another touchdown.
Goose Creek will host North Augusta next week with the winner advancing to the state championship.
GOOSE CREEK 41, NORTHWESTERN 7
SCORING SUMMARYGC -- Tramel Terry 39 pass from Jaquan Marsh (Masamitsu Ishibashi kick)
GC -- Virgil Smalls 1 run (Ishibashi kick)
GC -- Gerald Turner 80 interception return (Ishibashi kick)
N -- Rontavius McClure 7 pass from Mason Rudolph (Sully Foy kick)
GC -- Smalls 2 run (Ishibashi kick)
GC -- Terry 51 run (Kick failed)
GC -- Terry 41 pass from Marsh (Ishibashi kick)
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS RUSHING -- Northwestern: LaThomas Long 11-49; Mason Rudolph 5-29. Goose Creek: Virgil Smalls 17-94; Jaquan Marsh 11-124; Caleb Kinlaw 14-88; Tramel Terry 3-76; Demetrious Hines 1-2.
PASSING -- Northwestern: Rudolph 33-53-221-2. Goose Creek: Marsh 9-12-206-1.
RECEIVING -- Northwestern: B.J. Boyd 9-62; Rontavius McClure 9-65; Long 4-27; Dupree Hart 9-54; Ahmad Dewese 2-13. Goose Creek: Smalls 1-4; Terry 4-137; Gerald Turner 1-28; Zach Lavery 2-31; Kinlaw 1-6.
RECORDS: Northwestern 8-5; Goose Creek 12-1