CHARLESTON | Nineteen yards.
That’s how close Aynor came Friday to advancing in the Class 3A playoffs. Instead, the Blue Jackets’ final drive ended with a fourth-down pass bouncing off the ground. Oceanside Collegiate took a knee and six seconds later Aynor’s season ended in a 31-26 road loss.
“The fight was just amazing,” Aynor coach Jason Allen said. “It wasn’t a lack of effort. Just didn’t execute at times. They were good. Obviously, to get to this point, you’re playing a Top 10 team.”
Heading into Friday’s game, Aynor was ranked No. 7 among the state’s 3A schools and Oceanside was No. 10, though because of region standings Oceanside was a No. 1 seed and Aynor a No. 2.
In a normal season, Aynor would have begun the playoffs at home. However, with a COVID-19-shortened format, the Blue Jackets were forced to travel to Charleston. Friday’s game was played at The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Memorial Stadium.
Late in the first half, Aynor began to turn the game around. Trailing 17-6, they got a touchdown run from senior fullback Landon Beverly to pull within five with just under two minutes left in the second quarter.
That momentum carried into the second half.
The Blue Jackets opened the third quarter with one of their signature clock-consuming drives. The 14-play march ended with a nine-yard touchdown run from running back Ahmad Gerald. With 5:13 left in the quarter, Aynor led 20-17.
That was as good as things got for the Blue Jackets in the third quarter.
The Landsharks responded quickly, taking a 24-20 lead with three minutes left in the period.
Aynor then made a critical error, fumbling the ball at their own 20. Oceanside converted the turnover into another touchdown, pushing the lead to 31-20 with 45 seconds left in the third.
“We had some opportunities,” Allen said. “And we just didn’t finish it at certain times during the third quarter.”
But Aynor kept the game close, narrowing the gap with a two-yard touchdown plunge from junior quarterback Garrison Gasque with 9:11 to play in the fourth.
Aynor’s defense forced Oceanside to punt on the ensuing drive, but the Blue Jacket offense sputtered and they punted back to the Landsharks. Yet the Aynor defense held again, and they got the ball back at their own 16 with just under four minutes left in the game.
“Proud of the defense, man,” Allen said, “to hold that team like that.”
Aynor had no timeouts left for the final drive, which was a challenge for a run-first team that rarely passes. Still, they pushed the ball into the red zone, reaching the Oceanside 19.
They just didn’t reach their goal.
After the game, Allen praised his 18 seniors, a group that posted a 23-5 varsity record and in 2019 won the school’s first region title in 30 years.
“They are the foundation,” the third-year coach said. “They laid the groundwork for what we’re going to be and what we’re going to do. I’ll never forget them. They’re just an amazing, amazing group.”