Gray Collegiate concluded its season, losing to Oceanside 35-28 in the 2A state title game after its offense went cold following a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
The Gray Collegiate War Eagles' journey to the championship came to an end after losing the 2A title game 35-28 Thursday to Oceanside Collegiate.
The War Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the contest but then went cold offensively the rest of the game, struggling to move the ball toward the end zone.
Meanwhile after a slow start, Oceanside’s offense started to click thanks to the success of their quarterback Aiden Manavian. He finished the game 31-43 for 367 yards and two touchdowns to lead his team to a comeback victory.
Tied at 28 late in the fourth quarter, Manavian and the Landsharks marched downfield for an 11-play 71-yard touchdown drive that ultimately won them the game.
“It was just back and forth,” Gray head coach Adam Holmes said. “Then right there at the end of the game, just didn't have enough time to get in there. So, you got to give them credit, two football teams going at it. We knew that this would kind of happen,”
Gray quarterback Tyler Waller struggled in the passing game, finishing 9-20 with 188 yards and an interception. He did add two touchdowns, including one in the second half to tie the game.
Waller’s ability to use his legs was an advantage for the War Eagles. He kept the ball 13 times and picked up 68 yards. As a whole, Gray rushed for 143 yards with B.J. Montgomery recording the second-most yardage at 48 yards on 16 attempts.
“[Waller] is a sophomore, made some plays, did some good stuff with his feet. In a big-time game like this, I thought overall he did a good job,” Holmes said. “We were close on some balls, on some deep balls that we were that close to getting. We just came up a little short.”
Oceanside’s run game was basically nonexistent. The Landsharks took 29 rushing attempts but earned just 17 yards. However, the play of their passing attack made this a non-factor.
The two offenses both had around 120 yards through the first two quarters, but Gray’s defensive effort allowed them to win the half. Gray forced two turnovers and Oceanside had none.
The War Eagles went downfield and scored a touchdown on the game’s first drive. Waller hit receiver Jamarious Lockett for a 32-yard touchdown to cap a 70-yard drive.
Oceanside’s drive picked up no steam and Gray’s defense overwhelmed the offensive line. It eventually resulted in a strip-sack and recovery for the War Eagles.
Montgomery ran into the endzone for a four-yard touchdown on the next play to put his team up two scores less than halfway through the first period.
The Landsharks started their next drive on their one-yard line after taking the kickoff backward. They avoided a safety but gained just three yards and were forced to punt deep in their endzone.
The War Eagles offense went stagnant following its first two scoring drives. The team failed to capitalize off the positive field position, ending its next drive with a sack and punt back to Oceanside.
Before the quarter ended, the Landsharks made it into enemy territory for the first time. The team walked off the field with no points, however, after having to kick a field goal, which doinked off the right upright.
Oceanside got onto the scoreboard during its next possession after converting on a fourth and one from the 50 to keep its drive alive. A few plays later, quarterback Will Virgilio subbed in, kept it himself and scored a one-yard touchdown.
The Landsharks had a final possession before the half and got close to tying the game. However, Gray’s defense made another stop, and Aiden Legger jumped for a ball launched into the endzone and came down with it to keep the War Eagle lead intact before the break.
In the second half, a switch went off and Oceanside flipped the script. The two teams came out of the break explosive and combined for 21 points in the third quarter, but Oceanside would go to the fourth with the lead.
Oceanside took the opening drive of the second half and tied the game after picking apart Gray’s defense with its passing game. Manavian eventually hit Gavin Gaspar for a 35-yard touchdown.
The next drive for the War Eagles was disastrous. It started with a fumble, but recovery, and ended with a failed punt attempt that was stopped when the punter’s knee hit the ground trying to secure the ball.
Gray’s defense again stepped up and forced Oceanside off the field with no points. The Landsharks used all their downs but failed to get a first and turned the ball back over to Gray.
The War Eagles again had a disastrous drive as Oceanside took the lead after jumping the route on a screen pass for a 22-yard pick-six. Gray did not wait long to retie the game though.
In less than 15 seconds of game time, the War Eagles evened up the score on a one-play drive. Blaine Redmond returned the kickoff to the Landsharks’ 26-yard line, and then Waller found Zion Job in the endzone on the next play for the score.
The Landsharks bit back and scored a touchdown to swing the game back in their favor. Manavian and Gaspar connected on their second touchdown of the night, this time from 36 yards out with under a minute in the third quarter.
Oceanside secured the game in the fourth quarter, but it took some dramatic final minutes to get there.
Gray’s defense snagged some momentum back after Brady Cottingham intercepted Manavian on a fourth-and-one near the 50-yard line. Montgomery got his second touchdown of the game a few plays later after powering into the endzone from 14 yards, tying the game at 28.
Oceanside got the ball back with over five minutes left and went downfield into Gray territory. The team faced a fourth and five at Gray’s 26-yard line, but instead of kicking a 33-yard field goal, the Landsharks went for it and converted, moving the ball down to the one-yard line.
On the next play, Virgilio was back on the field and put his team ahead with 86 seconds left in the game.
“[We] thought they were going to kick a field goal, and then we called a timeout to kind of ice them a little bit,” Holmes said. “They go for it on fourth down. Gutsy call by them to get it and get a first and get that touchdown.”
Gray got close to responding on its next drive, getting to Oceanside’s 23-yard line. But the offense stalled, and the team failed to convert on a fourth and nine with nine seconds left, allowing Oceanside to take over and end the game.
Fighting through all the noise during the year but came up just short of its goal to reclaim its title from the 2021 season.
The War Eagles fought through the outside noise and finished the year 15-4 but failed to achieve its goal of reclaiming its title from the 2021 season.
“At the end of the day man, you're playing for a state title,” Holmes said “We all wanted to come here and win it. That was our goal from the get-go. I'm proud of this group of guys and the way they fought, the way they battled through everything we faced this year. We just came up a little bit short.”
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