Barnwell's Craig Pender drops back to pass during Friday night's Lower State championship game. Pender passed for 209 yards and a touchdown in the game.


BARNWELL — The Warhorses did what they set out to do.

Barnwell turned up the pressure in the second half of Friday night’s Class AA Lower State championship game at W.W. Carter Stadium and defeated Oceanside 42-31 to get back to the state championship game for the second year in a row.

“I just can’t say enough about our players and our coaches and this community and this school,” Barnwell head coach Dwayne Garrick said. “Fortunately this was our fourth Lower State championship game in a row. Now this will be our second state championship game in a row.”

The last time around Barnwell finished on a bitter note after a blowout loss to Abbeville. It won’t get to avenge that particular loss – Saluda defeated Abbeville 32-28 in the Upper State championship to earn a spot alongside Barnwell next week – but for the senior class getting back is just as sweet regardless of the opponent.

“I don’t have any words right now, quarterback Craig Pender said. “This senior class made a vow to get back to state, and we did that tonight. “

Pender played a big role in boosting the Warhorses to the victory, passing for 209 yards and a touchdown. TJ Miller and Jamari Chisolm each rushed for two touchdowns.

“It was just flowing for me tonight,” Pender said. “Oceanside, they’re well-coached. Coach Grier is a great coach and he drew up some good stuff out there on defense.”

Pender’s 55-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Robinson was one of the biggest plays of the game. Oceanside opened the second half with a nearly 10-minute drive to cut the Barnwell lead to 21-17. It took the Warhorses only two plays to answer with Pender’s connection to Robinson. Robinson finished the night with 113 receiving yards.

“It was huge,” Garrick said. “That was big time. They stop us there and to be honest with you we’re in trouble.”

Barnwell got the big defensive stops when they needed them.

The defense held running back Keegan Williams in check for the most part, holding him under 100 yards rushing, something that only happened one other time this season.

Linebacker Deshawn Watson was all over the field making big plays on the defensive side. He was responsible for the Warhorses first touchdown of the night.

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He got to Oceanside quarterback Sean Cooney in the end zone and stripped the ball out and then recovered it to put Barnwell on the board.

“He is what he is. He’s all over the place. He did a great job of putting pressure on the quarterback at times,” Garrick said. “He’s a football player. He’s one of the best I’ve ever coached.”

A late game pick by Demaurion Ginn which set up Chisolm’s second score was another key point late in the game that virtually sealed the deal for Barnwell.

The Class AA state championship game is set to kickoff at 5 p.m. at Charles W. Johnson Stadium in Columbia.

“I think we’ll go about it a little more business-like than we did last time. Last time had a little carnival atmosphere to it to be honest with you,” Garrick said. “We’ve been there. The kids know what to expect. It won’t be that deer in the headlights look.”

Follow Eric Russell on Twitter @ericj_russell