GOOSE CREEK, S.C. (WCIV) -- The Stratford Knights are set to play for their first state title since 2004 on Saturday against Northwestern, and it's a fitting end of an era for on of the most decorated players on the school's history.
Quarterback Jacob Park is a big guy with an even bigger arm with skyrocketing potential and promise, but he's at ease with the pressure and overcomes the anticipation with poise.
"I've been waiting for this day for a long time. During freshman year, we were planning on getting here. I'm excited, I'm ready for the game, ready to be in the environment," he said. "We have a great group of guys to be here with, so I'm excited."
He knows bigger things are immediately ahead of Saturday's game.
He graduates later this month, plays in the Army All-American game in early January, then enrolls and starts playing for the University of Georgia shortly after that.
"It's full of a lot of exciting things. I just try to take it one at a time. The state title is the next step; it's be like icing on the cake. It's smooth sailing the rest of the way if we get this win," Park said.
Properly prioritizing, Park is primed to perform, but he's shouldering the weight of a town, a team, and a dream. But it's all impossible without the help of a coach and mentor, a man who is a legend in his own right, Ray Stackley.
"He's had an amazing coaching career. For me, he's helped me take all this and make it small tasks. It can get overwhelming with recruiting and games," Park said. "He simplifies it for me and helps me get through rough times."
That might be why Park has managed to navigate a team through some turbulent waters, ending the season on back-to-back losses, only to deliver them to the promised land at Williams Brice Stadium.
"We're resilient; it's fight or flight," Park said. "Coaches tell us, 'Put on your gloves and fight or take them off an leave.' Nobody wants to leave. We want to play together."
Win or lose, it all ends Saturday.
The sky is the limit for Park, but his only concern at the moment is finishing the year with the guys who keep him grounded.