BARNWELL – The magical ride through the 2019 football season ended in disappointment for the Oceanside Collegiate Landsharks on Friday night as the defending Lower State champion Barnwell Warhorses advanced to the Class AA state finals with a 42-31 win.
Barnwell (13-0) will play Saluda in the state finals on next Friday at Benedict College.
Oceanside suffered its first loss on the field of this season but officially ends the season with an 8-5 record after four forfeits for using ineligible players during the regular season.
Regardless of the final record, Oceanside coach Chad Grier said the foundation for future success has been laid by this team.
“This type of atmosphere is what high school football is about and we can learn from this,” Grier said. “We have to learn to play in these types of games, so this can help us.
“I hate it for this team. It’s disappointing. We had to play clean and we didn’t. But we have great kids. I love them. I love how hard they work. I’m gonna miss them.”
Barnwell’s defense came into the game focused on controlling the Oceanside Collegiate run game and worked its plan to perfection. Oceanside senior running back Keegan Williams, the leading rusher in the area, was limited to only 44 yards on 19 carries.
“They had a spy on Keegan all night, and they did a great job of taking him out of the game, Grier said. “(Number) three (Deshawn Watson) is so fast. We can’t simulate his speed in practice. We didn’t have an answer for him.”
Quarterback Sean Cooney was able to throw for 252 yards and two scores, while Walker Rhue had seven catches for 154 yards and two scores.
Barnwell’s offense clicked all game long, finishing with more than 350 total yards. Quarterback Britt Pender threw for 200 yards.
Things got bad early on as a bad snap on Oceanside’s second snap of the game resulted in a 23-yard loss to their own 1-yard line. On the next play, Landsharks quarterback Sean Cooney was hit in the end zone, losing the ball. Watson, Barnwell’s Shrine Bowl linebacker, fell on the loose ball for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 5:44 left in the first.
Oceanside responded with a solid drive, getting a 33-yard field goal from Chris Haynes, but Barnwell answered with a quick score on six plays for a 14-3 lead.
A 27-yard pass from Cooney to Walker Rhue cut the lead to 14-9 midway through the second quarter but again Barnwell answered with 66-yard drive on seven plays, taking a 21-9 halftime lead on Jamari Chisolm’s 15-yard run.
The Landsharks managed only 87 yards in the first half.
Oceanside opened the third quarter with its best offensive drive of the game, using 20 plays to cover 76 yards in over nine minutes with Williams scoring on a 5-yard run. A two-point conversion run by Williams cut Barnwell’s lead to 21-17.
However, Barnwell needed two plays to score again, on a 55-yard pass from Craig Pender to Marcus Robinson, pushing the lead to 28-17.
After an Oceanside punt, Barnwell again struck quickly, opening the fourth quarter with TJ Miller’s 38-yard run, pushing the advantage to 35-17.
Another touchdown pass from Cooney to Rhue made it 35-24, but Cooney was later intercepted to set up Barnwell’s last score.
“Barnwell is a great football team, great kids and well-coached,” Grier said. “The heart hurts for my guys right now. We will take a week off and get right back at it to get back here next year.”