Oceanside outlasts Gray for 2A football title in charter vs. charter clash

Oceanside Collegiate coach Chad Wilkes says he sometimes acts as a fan when Aiden Manavian is on the field.

Manavian, the team’s freshman quarterback, gave his coach plenty to watch on Thursday night, throwing for 367 yards and two touchdowns as the Landsharks defeated Gray Collegiate 35-28 in the Class 2A championship game at S.C. State’s Oliver C. Dawson Stadium.

It’s the Landsharks’ first state championship in football.

“I told our coaches on the headset: I’m like a fan watching him,” Wilkes said. “He amazes me what he could do. I wish I was in the stands and can watch him play a little bit. He is such a special player. He is elite.”

Manavian was moved into the starting role after Edward Reidenbach was injured during the team’s first playoff game. The freshman showed poise throughout the night despite a heavy Gray Collegiate pass rush that had nine sacks.

Manavian had a rough start with a fumble in the first quarter and was intercepted twice in the game. But he was at his best with the game on the line.

Gray Collegiate tailback BJ Montgomery tied the game at 28 on a 14-yard run with 5:47 left.

But the Landsharks answered with an 11-play, 71 yard drive capped off by Will Virgilio’s 1-yard run to put Oceanside up 35-28 with 1:26 to go.

Oceanside converted on a pair of third downs and one big fourth down on the final scoring drive. The Landsharks had fourth-and-6 on Gray’ 26 and Wilkes sent out the field-goal team. After Gray called a timeout, Wilkes changed his mind and pulled kicker Nick Sturm, who missed a 45-yarder earlier in the game, and sent the offense back on the field.

Manavian hit Virgilio for a 25-yard gain down to the 1. The Landsharks scored on the next play.

“We were going to kick it,” Wilkes said. “We sent (Nick) out there and I was like, what are we doing? We have Aiden Manavian at quarterback and we were just going to go for it. We had a really good play that we liked to the boundary.”

Gray coach Adam Holmes said he was a little surprised Oceanside went for it.

“We thought we were going to get a stop,” Holmes said. “They drive down and looked like they were going to kick a field goal. We called a timeout. We wanted to ice them, but a gutsy call by them to get the first down.”

Gray (14-1) had a chance to tie it and moved the ball down to the 23. But QB Tyler Waller’s fourth-down pass was incomplete with nine seconds left.

“We just played confident the whole day. Going down 14-0 meant nothing to us,” Manavian said. “Coming out on top is what we knew was going to happen.”

The Landsharks played the game without starting defensive lineman and Army commitment Ben Britton. The senior wasn’t allowed into the stadium after a social media post made earlier in the day. Wilkes said he and the team found out just before game time that Britton wouldn’t be allowed inside.

S.C. High School League commissioner Jerome Singleton said the S.C. State police made the final decision about Britton’s presence after they were made aware of the post.

“We won anyway. How about that?” Wilkes said.

Thursday’s game was the first time two public charter schools played each other for a football championship in South Carolina.

The loss also ended Gray’s bid for its second state title in three years and capped a wild year for the War Eagles.

Region 4-2A opponents refused to play Gray in football and won’t play them in any other sport this year. Gray football helmets had “TBD” stickers on them as a reminder and motivation after those region schools put “To Be Determined” next to Gray Collegiate on their initial schedules before deciding to not play them.

The SCHSL executive committee voted to let Gray replace those games (which count as forfeits) with other opponents. In football, the War Eagles ended up traveling to nationally ranked IMG Academy and Clearwater Academy, both in Florida. Gray will host IMG next year.

Holmes, in his pre-game speech to the team, talked about how those long trips and the challenges of the season brought everyone together.

“At the end of the day, we are playing for a state title. We wanted to come here and win it,” Holmes said afterward. “That was the goal from the get-go. But I am proud of these guys, the way they fought everything they faced this year. We just came up a little bit short.”

Gray Collegiate started strong Thursday with a pair of touchdowns early in the first quarter. Waller threw a 32-yard touchdown to Jamarious Lockett to make it 7-0.

After Ethan Raysor forced and recovered a fumble, setting the War Eagles up at the 4-yard line, Montgomery scored to make it 14-0.

Oceanside cut the deficit to 14-7 on Virgilio’s 1-yard run with 4:53 left in the second quarter. The Landsharks drove into Gray territory right before the half, but Aiden Legger picked off Manavian in the end zone with eight seconds left in the second quarter.

Oceanside tied the game on Manavian’s 35-yard pass to Gavin Gaspar on the first drive of the second quarter. Gaspar finished with eight catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns.

The Landsharks took the lead on Max Moorman’s interception return with 4:58 left in the third. Gray tied it 18 seconds later on Waller’s 26-yard pass to Zion Job.

Waller finished with 118 yards passing.

Scoring summary

First Quarter

GC —Lockett 32 pass from Waller (Gonzales kick), 9:30

GC — Montgomery 4 run (Gonzales kick), 6:26

Second Quarter

OC — Virgilio 1 run (Sturm kick), 4:53

Third Quarter

OC — Gaspar 35 pass from Manavian (Sturm kick), 10:13

OC — Moorman 22 interception return (Sturm kick), 4:58

GC — Job 26 pass from Waller (Gonzales kick), 4:40

OC — Gaspar 36 pass from Manavian (Sturm kick), 0:33

Fourth Quarter

GC — Montgomery 14 run (Gonzales kick), 5:47

OC — Virgilio 1 run (Sturm kick), 1:26

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — OC: Gilchrist 7-18; Virgilio 5-5; Hamilton 2-3. GC: Montgomery 15-48; Waller 13-68; Offord 1-28; Ford 3-23.

PASSING — OC: Manavian 31-43-2 367. GC: Waller 9-20-1 118.

RECEIVING —OC: Gaspar 8-125; Virgilio 7-91; Moskos 7-71; Hamilton 5-43; Brown 3-28; Welch 1-9. GC: Offord 3-23; Lockett 2-43; Job 2-38; Redmond 1-11; Montgomery 1-3.