Manchester’s K.J. McNeil (5), who transferred from Meadowbrook, had a big game as the Lancers claimed the Class 6 state title with a 49-7 victory over Freedom on Saturday. He ran for a touchdown, threw a touchdown pass and had a touchdown reception. DANIEL SANGJIB MIN/times-dispatch Senior K.J. McNeil was one of the biggest contributors to Manchester’s 15-0 season and its run to the Class 6 state championship. On Saturday in the title game, he ran for a touchdown, threw for one and caught one. He played defense, too, recording a sack and an interception. A year ago, McNeil wasn’t on the Manchester roster. He played for Meadowbrook, where he was one of the team’s top players. Before his senior season, he transferred to Manchester. But McNeil was just one of several transfer students who played in a state championship game Saturday. Highland Springs’ top two receivers, Ali Jennings and Antwane Wells, transferred there. Payton Hunter, a top defensive back at Stone Bridge, also is a transfer. Woodgrove claimed the Class 4 state championship in Lynchburg and was led by quarterback Graham Walker, who accounted for 477 yards and five touchdowns. Walker had transferred to Woodgrove from Battlefield. “It’s definitely played a role in the whole dynamics of high school football in general,” Stone Bridge coach Mickey Thompson said. Switching schools: This story is part of an occasional series on the increase of transferring by high school athletes and its effect on schools and families. The coach added that three or four of his contributors were transfer students, more than he’s had in the past. He said transfers are a reason why you see the same teams play in the state championship games year after year. Highland Springs has won four title games in a row, and Stone Bridge has lost in three of those games. +2 Antwane Wells (6), a transfer who became one of Highland Springs’ top receivers, tried to grab a ball against Stone Bridge’s Payton Hunter during the first half of the Class 5 state championship game Saturday. DANIEL SANGJIB MIN/TimES-DISPATCH “It’s helping create — for lack of a better word — dynasties, where one team is winning and winning and winning, because you win and you get a few transfers and a few more and it just builds,” Thompson said. Adding a talented transfer doesn’t automatically improve a football team, multiple coaches said. If a new player wins a spot in the starting lineup, that means there’s a hard-working player already on the team who just lost it. That sort of thing can have a big effect on a team’s chemistry. “It could tear your team apart,” Thompson said. “It’s great to get a good player. But how do you manage the chemistry?” Highland Springs coach Loren Johnson said he spends a lot of time making sure his roster jells, that players get along and play well with one another. That work comes in the offseason, and the results are seen once the games are played. “We spend a lot of time on the jelling part,” Johnson said. “I think that’s where people miss the boat.” Wells and Jennings produced a combined 1,429 receiving yards this year, and Jennings has committed to West Virginia. Of course, there are plenty of teams getting transfers and not winning state championships. Jalon Jones and Eric McDaniels transferred to Henrico this year. Pat Taylor joined Douglas Freeman. They were some of the area’s top players in 2018. +2 Hakeem Beamon, a highly recruited defensive lineman who has committed to Penn State, made a big impact for Manchester after transferring from L.C. Bird. SHELBY LUM/TIMES-DISPATCH While it was once taboo to leave a high school football team and join another, it has become commonplace. School divisions offer variances, in which a player can request to attend a different school for a specific reason. Or, families increasingly are willing to physically move into a preferred school’s zone. “I think that’s the nature of the beast,” Manchester coach Tom Hall said. McNeil joined Manchester, he said, in hopes of improving his recruiting prospects. There’s an adage that if you’re talented, colleges will find you no matter what school you play for. Yet, college coaches sometimes mention a player’s reputable high school program when discussing the player’s attractiveness. Plus, there’s greater visibility at a program such as Manchester. McNeil isn’t the only player who transferred there this year. Hakeem Beamon, a defensive lineman committed to Penn State, joined the team from L.C. Bird. A year before, Kwame Dehaney arrived from James River. Dehaney recorded a 41-yard interception return on Saturday. When a college coach from Penn State visits Beamon, maybe he’ll see McNeil, too, and like what he sees. Plus any team that plays in December after the college season has ended will get a few extra looks from college recruiters. Once the college season ends, assistant coaches hit the road to visit schools and watch players. And at its simplest form, winning is more fun that losing. Why not play for a state championship-caliber team if you can? On Manchester’s roster is Notre Dame-bound quarterback Brendon Clark. He may have been a reason why Manchester recently became a destination for transfers. “If you were a young wide receiver, wouldn’t you want to come play with the best quarterback in the state?” Hall said.