timberland

Timberland has won 15 region championships and two state titles under head coach Art Craig. File/Rob Gantt/Gazette

The new kid on the block is ready to challenge the old guard for region supremacy Friday night.

In a classic battle of old vs. new, Timberland and Oceanside Collegiate Academy square off with the Region 6-AA title on the line.

Timberland has won 15 region championships and two state titles since 2002 under head coach Art Craig. Oceanside Collegiate is in just its third season of competition.

Timberland has won 179 games since 2002, the most of any program in the Lowcountry. In fact, the program has lost only four region games since 2002.

Oceanside Collegiate head coach Chad Grier said he has the utmost respect for what Craig has done at Timberland.

“Unbelievably well-coached, athletic, fast and physical,” said Grier of Timberland. “As a football coach, I enjoy watching teams like Timberland play because of how hard they compete every single week.

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Oceanside football (copy) (copy)

Oceanside Collegiate Academy is 6-1 under coach Chad Grier in its third year of playing football. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

"It starts at the top. Art is a fantastic football coach and a first-class guy. Their teams are always ready to play and you can rest assured we have a great amount of respect for what they have accomplished.”

Both teams enter the showdown, which will be at Timberland High School, on five-game winning streaks. Timberland opened the season with two losses and is 5-2 overall. The Landsharks are 6-1.

The teams, both 3-0 in region play, have improved greatly against a relatively weak region schedule, but both coaches realize that will change Friday night.

“Oh they are good, real good,” Craig said of Oceanside. “What they do offensively is going to be a real challenge for us. They spread the ball around so well and take advantage of every mistake. Defensively, they fly around and play hard. Coach Grier really has them playing with a high level of confidence. They’re definitely good.”

Said Grier: “Both of us have pretty much been able to play backups in the second half, with running clocks, the last few weeks. That will change on Friday. I fully expect it to be a really competitive game between two teams that really want to win that region title.”

The winner of Friday’s game, as region champion, will secure home-field advantage throughout the Class AA Lower State playoffs.

Oceanside’s spread offense is led by junior quarterback Sean Cooney, who is one of three players to take significant snaps at the position this season. Cooney has thrown 10 touchdown passes to one interception. He, along with senior Richard Hurteau and sophomore Bryce Klinger, have accounted for nearly 1,500 passing yards and 19 touchdowns.

Junior Keegan Williams leads the running game, and Walker Rhue, Sims Bennett and Gibson Marsh are threats in the passing game.

Defensively, senior linebacker Caleb Calandra and tackle Ronald Shepard are two of the leaders. Junior Mark Jellema and senior Jakari Moultrie also rate among the leading performers.

Timberland began the season without its starting quarterback, James Alston, who suffered a knee injury. In his place, senior DJ Gadsden has performed admirably and maintains the starting nod even with Alston back.

“DJ has been everything we could ask for and this is his team to lead,” Craig said. “Getting James back to help defensively, once he gets into shape, is going to help us a great deal.”

Matt Williamson is Timberland’s leading rusher while Terrence Smalls and Sam Moultrie are the top tacklers on the defense.

“This is a great opportunity for us to really see where we are with the playoffs so close,” Craig said. “It’s kind of exciting because this game really means a lot. As coaches, we should be excited for these types of games. It’s a great measuring stick for both teams and I think both teams will come out better football teams from having competed in this game.”

Also on Friday, Manning visits Hanahan in the game that should decide the Region 7-AAA title. Both teams are 3-0 in region play.