MOUNT PLEASANT — The Oceanside and St. John’s non-region matchup won’t affect standings or playoff position. But with the postseason awaiting next week, don’t tell either side that the regular-season finale didn’t matter.
Oceanside shut out St. John’s in the second half of a 48-21 win Friday night.
Both second seeds will host in the opening round of the playoffs beginning next Friday — Oceanside against fourth-seeded Whale Branch in Class AA and St. John’s against Charleston Charter in Class A.
“We wanted to use this game as a way to make each other better,” Oceanside coach Chad Grier said.
“I think we exposed some tendencies that we both need to be aware of. I have a lot of respect for St. John’s and (coach) Josh Harpe over there, and we’ll talk, I’m sure, next week about what we’re both doing right and wrong. This was a great opportunity to figure that out in a playoff-like game.”
Keegan Williams led the Landsharks’ offense with six touchdowns, running for four and 198 yards and catching two others. The junior back averaged 6.2 yards per carry, steadying Oceanside’s offense on the ground and through the air.
He played just eight games this fall but is now only 129 yards from cracking 1,000 in his first varsity season.
“Keegan Williams is special,” Grier said. “He’s doing some things that don’t have anything to do with coaching. God gave that boy some ability, and he’s got heart of a lion the way he competes.”
Oceanside and St. John’s traded scores throughout the opening half, going back and forth into the final minute of the second quarter. Williams took a screen pass 48 yards for a touchdown to lift the Landsharks ahead 21-13 with 50 seconds to play. St. John’s answered 30 seconds later with a 27-yard score from Tyrone Hicks. Tyrus Richardson added the two-point conversion with a one-handed snag to send the game into halftime tied at 21.
St. John’s struggled to regain its offensive momentum out of the break, though, going three-and-out on its first possession and fumbling on its second.
The Islanders made a 28-yard field goal that would have cut a Landsharks lead down to down to 28-24 with four minutes left in the third. But a penalty for an illegal formation forced St. John’s to kick again, this time a 33-yard attempt that sailed wide.
The Islanders didn’t sniff the red zone the rest of the night, losing a possession to an onside kick and then fumbling on the first play of its next drive.
“We stopped executing,” Harpe said. “In every game we’ve lost this season, turnovers and penalties have been key issues. Chad and I talked about using this game to get each other better. We’re both tuning up for the playoffs, and this was a good chance for us to get some things cleaned up.”
Oceanside put the game away with a 4-yard touchdown run from Williams after the onside kick and a 5-yard score by Williams following the Islanders fumble.
The coaches, each in their second year at their respective schools, were quick to shift their focus to the postseason after the final buzzer sounded. Oceanside will be competing in the playoffs for the first time in school history. Grier led Davidson Day (N.C.) to four state championships in six years. St. John’s is looking to play even deeper into November this season after advancing to the second round last season for just the second time in the past 12 years.
“Great tune-up tonight,” Harpe said. “Now, it’s time to get ready for the playoffs and try to make some noise.”