Aaron Smith Manning

Manning's Aaron Smith carries against Bishop England on Friday. Frankie Mansfield/Moultrie News 

The Bishops battled, and that counts for something — but not a region championship.

Manning outlasted Bishop England, 27-24, to capture the Region 7-AAA football title in the regular-season finale for both teams Friday at Jack Cantey Stadium on Daniel Island.

The Monarchs (8-3, 5-0), as a No. 1 playoff seed, are guaranteed the opportunity to host until the state championship round. The second-seeded Bishops (6-3, 4-1) will open the postseason at home, too, but could be on the road as early as the second round.

“Just a little short,” Bishop England coach John Cantey said. “I’m more proud of this team right now than at any point this season. We could’ve easily folded but we battled and we fought. We just ended up a little short.”

Bishops quarterback Cam Costa, a senior, completed 20 of 34 passes for 241 yards with three scores and one interception in his final regular-season home game.

Manning is likely to host Region 6 No. 4 seed Cheraw in the opening round of the postseason next week. Bishop England should get Region 6 No. 3 seed Lake City. Playoffs brackets will be officially released by the S.C. High School League on Saturday.

“There’s still a lot left to play for,” Cantey said. “A home playoff game, there’s a lot to be proud of. A lot we can build off of and we’ll see what happens in the playoffs.”

Bishop England struggled to slow the Monarchs ground game early. The Monarchs' Aaron Smith finished with 203 yards on 8 per carry. Smith contributed to Manning’s first touchdown, then scored two of his own in the first half.

He broke a 40-yard run into the Bishops’ red zone that led to a 2-yard score by Caleb Wright a minute later for a 7-3 Monarchs lead midway through the second quarter. Smith then scored on a 20-yard sprint less than two minutes later. He added a 3-yard touchdown catch in the final seconds of the opening half that opened a 21-3 Monarchs lead before the break.

“Our game plan was to wear them down,” Manning head coach Reggie Kennedy said. “We knew they had a lot of kids playing both ways. It worked there for a minute but the game of football is full of momentum.”

Bishop England turned a Monarchs fumble into an 11-yard touchdown pass from Costa to Sullivan Clair six minutes into the third quarter. Manning answered, though, with a 7-yard keeper from quarterback Justin Daniels to regain a three-possession lead, 27-10, into the fourth quarter.

Costa hit Michael Long on a 16-yard wheel route down the home sideline that pulled Bishop England within 27-17 less than 30 seconds into the final frame. The Bishops then recovered their third onside kick in as many games to reclaim possession. It led to a 13-yard touchdown from Costa to Clair that cut the gap to 27-24 with more than 10 minutes still to play.

Bishop England again recovered with a squib on the ensuing kickoff. The Bishops worked down the Monarch 9-yard line, well within field goal range, before fumbling their chance away.

Manning melted the final six minutes off the clock. The Bishops, who lost a starting defensive lineman, linebacker and defensive back in the game, couldn’t find on more stop as the Monarchs picked up three third-down conversions on the drive before icing the win with a fourth-down pickup in the final minute.

“Our kids just refused to lose,” Kennedy said. “We’ve been in some tough ball games this season and I think it paid off tonight.”

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