TAMPA — Berkeley Prep has had its share of dazzling athletes on the football field the past decade or so. Watching Derek Hatcher run circles around opponents in the mid 2000s was video game-esque and the phenomenal Nelson Agholor made each Friday night a must-see event.
So where does 5-foot-9, 180-pound Gordon Stetson fit in?
"That was one of the greatest games a player has had since I've been at Berkeley," coach Dominick Ciao said. "We've had some great players but his performance (last) Friday night was just tremendous."
High praise indeed. Stetson ran for 276 yards and scored five times in Berkeley Prep's most important game of the year, helping the Bucs get closer to the postseason by defeating district rival Lakeland Christian 42-24.
"Gordon runs like a 200-pound back," Ciao said. "And he plays like one. Tremendous toughness, great vision and a fierce competitor."
The Buccaneers didn't just lean on Stetson … they put the season on his back. In a game where the winner likely advanced to the playoffs and the loser didn't, Stetson, a four-year starter, carried the ball a whopping 37 times.
"But (Stetson) has been great for us since ninth grade," Ciao said.
It was Stetson's second 200-plus yard game in a row, but he wasn't alone. Backfield mate Jakob Hines ran for 75 yards and a score, quarterback Davis Koetter was an efficient 12-of-17 for 172 yards and defensive lineman Greg Moore finished with a pair of sacks.
And the Bucs had plenty of motivation heading into that Class 3A, District 4 matchup.
"We couldn't go out like we did last year," Stetson said. "We didn't finish the game last season. We had to make a change."
Lakeland Christian dashed Berkeley Prep's 2015 playoff hopes with a 27-26 overtime win when the Vikings blocked a game-tying extra point attempt.
And the Bucs had been waiting exactly 364 days for revenge.
"We've been talking about that one play and it's been motivating us all seasons," Stetson said. "I knew we weren't going to let that happen again."
But the Bucs found themselves tied at 21 with the Vikings. Stetson, however, was not about to let it come down to a kick. He ran for 126 yards in the second half and scored twice while the defense, led by Sandro Maxwell, Ryan Montgomery and Moore took care of the rest, holding the Vikings to just a field goal after the break.
"(Stetson's) performance was all that more impressive because the score was tied at half and it wasn't a blowout," Ciao said. "He's our leader."
Stetson might never live up to the accolades of Hatcher or Agholor, but for at least one night, he etched his name into Berkeley Prep history. And with the playoffs just four weeks away, he has plenty of time to continue the story.
"I'm nowhere near the level of talent of (Hatcher and Agholor)," Stetson said with a chuckle. "But it is nice to be just mentioned in the same sentence with them."