The 7 Sports Team is counting down the 10 best high school football programs in the area during 7 Sports Director Pete Yanity’s 30 seasons covering high school football on Channel 7. State titles, overall wins, and dominant eras were taken into account when compiling the list of Pete’s Top 10.
#8 Christ Church
State Titles: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Playoff Appearances: 22
Upper State Final appearances: 5
*From 2011 to 2015, the Cavaliers won a state record 55 consecutive games
*Head Coach Don Frost is 5th all-time in SC history with four state championships
The Christ Church Cavaliers reached unprecedented success in the late 2000’s and early 2010s, breaking state records on their way to four straight state championships.
Although the program has had its ups and downs over the course of the last 30 years, it’s managed to make the postseason 22 times, while compiling the Palmetto State’s longest high school football winning streak.
Prior to the ‘90s, Christ Church had struggled for over a decade, failing to make the playoffs from 1979 to 1991, though they secured a state title in ‘77.
In 1989, David Smith took over the program, but after a one-win season in his first year followed by back-to-back three-win seasons, the school made a change.
John Jones entered as the new head coach in 1992, and the Cavaliers were much improved from the previous few seasons, going 6-4 in the regular season and reaching the playoffs for the first time in over10 years. Although they exited in the first round, it was certainly a step in the right direction. But the success quickly fell off the very next year. After failing to log a single win in 1993, Jones was out, and Christ Church sought its third coach in six years.
Ashley Haskins was named the new head coach in 1994. The team barely made its way to the playoffs once again, but it took three years for them to record a winning season. The Cavaliers reached seven wins in the 1997 regular season, its best finish in 19 years, but fell in the opening round. The program still struggled to find its footing, however. They were back to 4-6 the next year on what became a roller coaster of losing seasons and .500 campaigns.
Christ Church made the playoffs every season to start the new millenium under Haskins, except for 2004. But reached the second round just once from 2000 to 2007. 2006 and ‘07 were by far the team’s best seasons under Haskins. The Cavaliers went 8-2 in both seasons, but experienced the bitter taste of defeat in the opening round.
The team needed a change, and Haskins resigned in early 2008. Next in line was the head coach and athletic director from Riverside High School, who changed the course of the program for years to come.
The Don Frost Era (2008-2018)
Don Frost came to Christ Church fresh off of a Region Coach of the Year honor after leading Riverside to a 9-3 record in 2007.
In his first year at the helm. Frost led the Cavaliers to a 9-1 regular season finish. A week later Christ Church grabbed its first playoff win since 2005 with a victory over Ridge Spring-Monetta, but faltered in the second round, losing to Williston-Elko.
In 2009, the team went 9-3, including another playoff win in the postseason opening round, though it was a second round exit for the second straight year. In 2010, however, the program took a significant leap.
2010 Upper State Final Run
In 2010, Christ Church went undefeated in the regular season, beating teams by an average of 38.5 points along the way. The Cavaliers were a force to be reckoned with, and that was evident to begin the postseason.
The Cavaliers strong defense, coupled with a potent offense, proved to be too much to handle in the opener against Ridge Spring-Monetta. Christ Church beat the Trojans handily, 49-6.
Next up was Fox Creek, and the Cavaliers didn’t miss a step from the previous week as Christ Church won, 63-19.
At 13-0, it was difficult to find an opponent capable of overthrowing the Cavaliers. Their closest game all season was a 35-30 win over Carolina Academy and aside from one other game in which they won by 20 points, Christ Church had won by at least 30 points in every other game that season. That was, of course, including victories against their playoff competition.
But in the upper state final, Christ Church ran into a familiar and worthy opponent. Williston-Elko brought a 12-1 record into the state semifinal bout, and ended the Cavaliers’ promising run, beating Christ Church, 27-21. They fell in the Little 1A title game to Scott’s Branch the following week.
It was a bitter defeat for the Cavaliers after their most encouraging season in years. Little did they know it would be just the start to one of the greatest runs in state history.
2011 State Championship Run
The Cavaliers returned to action in 2011 hungry to make it back to the upper state final and then finish what they started in 2010.
A Week Two loss to Liberty on August 26th, their only loss of the season, dropped them to 1-1. That turned out to be a game of significance for years to come.
“When we got beat by Liberty the second game of the season, we kind of made a commitment then,” said Frost. “We said we can either come back on Monday and be a rec team and just play and have fun, or we can get serious about this and see what we can do with it. And we started getting serious.”
The Cavaliers were dominant both offensively and defensively, much like the year before. In 10 regular season games, they outscored their opponents by over 300 points and recorded four shutouts. Senior quarterback Hunter Townes was a threat through the air as well as on the ground, making him the focal point of a potent attack.
And that scoring discrepancy continued in November.
Christ Church took on St. Joseph’s in the first round of the Little 1A upper state playoffs, winning 54-14. And it was almost a repeat the following week as they defeated Fox Creek, 56-13, punching their ticket to the upper state final.
They had a rematch with Williston-Elko on November 18, 2011. The Cavaliers led by 14 in the fourth quarter, but the Blue Devils had the ball and the potential to narrow the gap. That’s when CCES linebacker Jeff Benedict forced a fumble, which was recovered by Asheton Hinton in the end zone for a touchdown. That score all but sealed the win for the Cavaliers, who were headed to a state title game for the first time since 1977.
Christ Church took on perennial power Lake View in the Little 1A state championship game at Benedict College in Columbia on November 25, 2011.
The Wild Gators came out strong, and their defense shut down the Cavaliers offense early on, including a crucial interception to stymie a Christ Church drive. Lake View running back Kenneth Turner was featured early and often as he provided the first points of the game on a dive play inside the ten. Lake View took the early lead, 8-0.
But Townes, despite a lull for much of the first half, led the Cavaliers down the field and capped
it off with a touchdown run and two-point conversion to tie things up at the break, 8-8.
“We were scared to death in the first half,” said Frost. “ I told them at halftime ‘Look why are we here? Why not us?”
Christ Church kept the foot on the gas to begin the second half. Townes hit receiver Bennett Nalley for a 36-yard touchdown to put the Cavs in front, 14-8. Another Townes rushing score in the third made it 22-8.
Then in the fourth quarter, the defense provided the exclamation point with the Wild Gators backed up deep in their own territory. Jack Schofield recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown to take the wind out of Lake View’s sails. It was one of four forced fumbles by the Christ Church defense in the second half alone.
Townes connected with David Einstein on a touchdown later in the quarter for the final tally, 35-14 as they secured the program’s first state title in over thirty years.
Townes, a North/South All-Star, finished with 215 yards passing and two touchdowns, adding two more scores on the ground.
In a tale of two halves, the Cavaliers outgained the Gators by over 100 yards in the second half en route to the championship win.
Frost later credited his staff for helping lay the foundation for a culture of winning.
“You talk about having an all-star coaching staff, that’s what we had,” said Frost.
The challenge now was doing it again.
2012 State Championship Run
In 2012, Christ Church was better than ever. The defense posted four more shutouts in the regular season, while the Cavaliers outscored opponents, 405-84, allowing fewer than 10 points per game, and scoring over 40 points per contest.
Christ Church went 10-0 in the regular season, extending the team’s winning streak to 22 games.
CA Johnson was the Cavaliers’ first victim in the postseason, as CCES rolled past the Green Hornets, 51-20. What followed was a 38-7 win over St. Joseph’s to advance to the upper state final, where they beat Ware Shoals, 55-28. The Cavs were back in the championship to defend their title.
Christ Church battled Johnsonville in the 2012 Big 1A state championship game at Benedict College.
It was an ugly first quarter, with both teams exchanging turnovers. But the Flashes got on the board first off of a Brison Allison touchdown to make it 6-0, Johnsonville.
Cavaliers quarterback Demetrius Anthony returned the favor. After hitting receiver Quan White on a big pass down to the one yard line, Anthony scored on a keeper putting the Cavs in front, 7-6. They extended that lead to 10-6 at the break.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter. Same score. Johnsonville came up with a big fourth down stop, and capitalized moments later with another Allison touchdown run. The Flashes were back on top, 12-10.
That was just the beginning of a wild fourth quarter finish.
Johnsonville struck again in the fourth. Allison broke loose for a 71-yard score, extending the Flashes lead to 18-10.
Anthony and company drove down the field in response, resulting in a touchdown run by the junior quarterback. He crossed the end zone on the two-point conversion as well to tie the game up at 18-18.
Moments later Christ Church secured a third down stop, forcing a Johnsonville punt, where a costly mistake set the tone for the rest of the game.
A high snap sailed into the end zone, resulting in a safety. The Cavaliers were now in the lead, 20-18.
On the ensuing free kick, Christ Church put the nail in the coffin. White took the short kick 51 yards down the left sideline all the way to the house. The Cavaliers won in dramatic fashion, scoring nine points in eight seconds on their way to a 27-18 victory.
Christ Church completed the repeat. Their new goal: “Three-peat.”
2013 State Title Run
It’s hard to imagine a team more dominant than the 2012 Cavaliers. But the 2013 squad rivaled the best team in program history.
Christ Church shut out three opponents in the regular season, one fewer than the previous season, but allowed more than twenty points just twice all year. The offense scored 492 points
in the regular season, and the defense allowed just 81. Their closest game was a 22-point win over Ware Shoals, 42-20, as Christ Church put together another 10-0 regular season record.
Anchoring the defense was defensive tackle Thad Mangum. In his junior season, an all-state campaign, Mangum recorded eight sacks, 24 tackles for loss, and 96 total tackles. The Cavs shutdown defense continued in the playoffs. And they were poised to defend their title once again.
They handled Lewisville in the first round, winning 66-0. Then they took on WIlliston-Elko in round two, beating the Blue Devils, 42-31 in a shootout.
“We were down 28-21, I believe,” said Mangum. “Our mindset as players was ‘we’re the best, we could go compete with anybody in the state’. So whatever situation we put ourselves in we always felt like we could come out victorious and we did.”
Christ Church matched up with storied program Lamar in the Big 1A upper state final.
It was a defensive battle throughout, with the Cavaliers barely edging the Silver Foxes on a last second field goal in a 17-14 win. At 13-0, Christ Church reached the state championship game for the third straight year.
Carvers Bay and Christ Church competed for the Big 1A state championship at Benedict College on November 29, 2013.
The Bears put the pressure on early, scoring on a 29-yard touchdown run to make it 6-0. Both teams traded scores after that. Christ Church made it 7-6 on an Anthony touchdown throw, but Carvers Bay responded with another score giving them a 14-7 advantage, still in the first quarter.
Both offenses were clicking in the opening half as the Cavaliers came right back.
Cavs running back Dorian Dickey showed great vision and a burst of speed when he took the delayed handoff, cut back, and was gone on a 60-yard touchdown run to answer the Bears’ touchdown. It was 14-14 after one quarter.
Christ Church took the lead in the second quarter when Anthony scrambled right, lost the football, but recovered it in the end zone for the go-ahead score. But Carvers Bay didn’t relent.
The Bears’ running back Devin Cuttino flew by everyone on an 80-yard touchdown. Once again, the game was tied, this time at 21-21.
Anthony then came through with his second touchdown run of the quarter to give Christ Church a 28-21 lead at the break.
The second half, however, was a completely different story.
Both defenses came up with big plays at big moments. The Cavaliers recovered a fumble on a promising Bears drive. Then Anthony burst loose for a huge run inside the Carvers Bay 10-yard- line. But the Bears defense held, and a missed field goal attempt kept them within seven.
On the final drive, though, the Bears went to the air looking for a big play and Taylor Carsten jumped in front of the intended receiver for the interception to end the threat. With all the scoring in the first half, neither team recorded a point in the second half, and Christ Church hung on for the 28-21 win to make it three titles in a row.
And just as impressive, the Cavaliers extended their winning streak to 40 games, two games away from the state record.
2014 State Championship Run
It didn’t take long for Christ Church to receive statewide recognition in 2014. On August 29th, they defeated Abbeville, 28-21, for their 42nd straight victory, breaking the state record set by Summerville under legendary coach John McKissick.
“I got a lot of grief when I made that schedule, and a lot of people were saying ‘why are you playing Abbeville?,’ said Frost. “And I told them, I said ‘if we’re going to break a streak, a record, especially of somebody with the class like coach McKissick, then we’re going to do it the right way.”
Mangum, who was named all-state once again, was happy with the team’s achievement, but was hungry for more.
“It was a great accomplishment, but we were like ‘we’ve got to finish it out. We’ve got to win four rings,’” Mangum added. “We took it one week at a time. But looking back, the amount of pressure that we had on ourselves, it was a lot of pressure that we put on ourselves. But we didn’t really look at it that way. We just came up to the plate and stepped up to the challenge that we had each week and knocked it off one by one.”
Hear more from Mangum and Frost on their record-setting performance below:
After that close victory, the Cavaliers scored more than 40 points in all but one of their remaining games en route to another perfect 10-0 regular season. And along with it, they continued to extend their unbeaten streak.
Dixie was first up in the playoffs, and Christ Church continued their run of absolute routs in the opening round. The Cavs won 62-0, and then beat St. Joseph’s, 57-21, one week later.
The Christ Church defense shined in the Big 1A upper state final against McBee, as the Cavs allowed just 8 points in a convincing 35-8 win. Despite all of the unprecedented success the program had achieved up to that point, they were on the precipice of breaking ground as they looked for a fourth title in a row, which would also match a state record.
Christ Church took on Bamberg-Ehrhardt for the 2014 Big 1A state championship at Benedict College on December 5th. There was a one-week delay to play the game due to an eligibility issue regarding one of the Red Raiders’ players, who was eventually deemed eligible by the South Carolina High School League.
The Cavaliers were the first on the board after a 14-play opening drive resulted in an Andrew Slade to Radford Swent touchdown pass to put Christ Church in front, 7-0.
The Cavs defense applied the pressure after that, forcing a safety to give them a 9-0 advantage.
Later in the half, Slade connected with Rudy Johnstone over the middle for a touchdown as Johnstone reached across the goal line. Christ Church took a 16-0 lead. They led 16-7 at the break.
Slade found pay dirt again in the third quarter, this time with his legs to give Christ Church a 23-7 lead. B-E responded with a touchdown of their own in the third, but they were held scoreless for the remainder of the game.
The Cavaliers secured their fourth state championship title in a row, 23-14, while making it 54-consecutive wins.
Of all the accomplishments during that stretch, what Frost remembers most is the humility and selflessness of the group.
“They learned to play for each other and not for themselves,” said Frost.
On August 30, 2015, their 55-game winning streak was broken when they fell at Abbeville, 55-14.
But the record remains, and so do the relationships.
In March of 2019, Frost suffered a major heart attack at a Memphis airport, where medical personnel had to revive him. He retired from coaching later that spring. The near-death experience gave him a new perspective on the bonds he formed at Christ Church.
“The biggest paycheck I could ever get as a coach is hearing these guys give me a call and reach out to me after I died and came back,” said Frost. “They know I’m there if they need it and if I need something I can call them.”
Christ Church went 9-3 in 2015, falling to McBee in the quarterfinals, and the program has yet to reach the upper state final since, most recently going 4-7 in 2019. But their dominance over a four-year period is unrivaled, especially in the 1A ranks. Establishing a new state consecutive wins record (by 14 games over the closest school) is enough of an achievement in itself.
Couple that with four straight state championships, five upper state championship game appearances, and 102 wins overall, it’s hard to find many programs that had a better stretch than Christ Church from 2008 through 2016. That’s why the Cavs come in as Pete’s #8 best program over the last 30 years.
Pete’s Top 10:
Christ Church Football record by year (Courtesy of SC Football History & MaxPreps)