It’s only game three of the high school football season for Oceanside Collegiate and Hanahan, but Friday night’s clash between the teams has all the makings of a championship showdown.
The game will be played at The Citadel's Johnson Hagood Stadium (7:30 p.m.) and the winner will be in control of Region 8-AAA.
Oceanside (2-0) has beaten region foes Bishop England and North Charleston. Hanahan (2-0) has region wins over North Charleston and Battery Creek.
“It definitely feels a little weird to have a game that means so much this early in the season,” Oceanside Collegiate head coach Joe Call said. “Usually we have some non-region games and a little time to figure things out. But with how things are this year, with the virus and all, this is where we are.
"The goal is to put yourself in this situation at some point but it is weird to be this early. It’s the same for both teams. We just have to get ready to play.”
Both head coaches are in their first season at their respective schools and each left successful programs to pursue a new opportunity. Hanahan's Art Craig won two state titles and more than 200 games at Timberland High, and Call left Summerville, his alma mater, after five seasons as head coach.
Call inherited an established winning culture at Oceanside Collegiate. Under former coach Chad Grier, the Landsharks advanced to the Class AA Lower State final a year ago.
Craig took over a Hanahan program that finished 1-9 last season and the coach has worked hard to instill confidence.
“It’s been a process but it’s coming along,” Craig said. “Winning helps for sure but confidence is something we have battled. We’ve talked a lot about playing with emotion and excitement and I thought last week (a 36-0 win over Battery Creek) we showed up with excitement and played more physical.”
Hanahan has been sparked offensively by freshman running back Kevon Rivera, who has rushed for 283 yards and four touchdowns in two games. Fellow back Josh Shaw and quarterback Jonathan Shelton also bolster the ground game.
Senior linemen Kai Buffalo and Andrew Stewart, two-way starters, have been consistent performers, along with senior linebacker Alex Herriott.
Oceanside has relied on its defense while a host of new skill position personnel on offense seek to hit their stride. The offense, however, does have one of the area’s biggest lines.
Junior quarterback Garrison Kepley is a first-year starter at quarterback and sophomore Vaughn Blue is the team’s top running back. Sophomore tackle Monroe Freeling (6-6, 270) has been rated as one of the nation’s top underclassmen.
“We’re progressing but we certainly need to be sharper in our execution offensively,” Call said.
Anchoring the defense are linebackers Zach Hagedon and Rhett Powell, and end Dana Brunson. Placekicker Spencer McKinley also rates as one of the state’s best at his position.
“I’ve been very pleased with our effort and intensity on defense,” Call said.
Another key game in the area takes place in the SCISA ranks as perennial state champion Hammond visits First Baptist in a game of the state’s top two teams in Class AAA. Both teams are undefeated this season and First Baptist has never beaten Hammond.
First Baptist senior quarterback Will Daniel has thrown 12 touchdown passes in a 5-0 start, with senior receiver Jaylin Hayward having five touchdown receptions.
Philip Simmons is off to a 2-0 start for the first time in three-year varsity history and the Iron Horses take on 1-1 Woodland in a Region 6-AA game that holds major playoff implications as well.
West Ashley, 2-0 under first-year head coach Donnie Keifer, visits Summerville in a Region 8-AAAAA game. The winner of this game solidifies its chances of making the state playoffs. Each still has a game against region favorite Fort Dorchester.
Lowcountry Top 10
1. Fort Dorchester (2-0)
2. Goose Creek (1-1)
3. First Baptist (5-0)
4. Oceanside Collegiate (2-0)
5. Berkeley (1-1)
6. Hanahan (2-0)
7. West Ashley (2-0)
8. Baptist Hill (2-0)
9. Philip Simmons (2-0)
10. Wando (1-1)
Friday night's schedule
Hanahan at Oceanside
Cane Bay at Goose Creek
West Ashley at Summerville
Hammond at First Baptist
Porter-Gaud at Trinity
Stall at Fort Dorchester
Wando at Stratford
Whale Branch at Baptist Hill
Bishop England at Battery Creek
Hilton Head at Bluffton
North Charleston at Academic Magnet
Charleston Charter at Cross
Colleton County at James Island
Beaufort at May River
Woodland at Philip Simmons
Military Magnet at St. John’s
Lake Marion at Timberland
John Paul II at Northwood Academy
Faith at Cathedral
Clarendon Hall at Charleston Collegiate
Colleton Prep at Thomas Heyward
Pinewood Prep at Augusta Christian
Dorchester at Greenwood Christian
Palmetto at WW King
St. John’s Christian at Calhoun Academy