If there was a knock on Socastee early, it was that the Braves weren’t quite capable of putting a team away.
In the season opener, the Braves’ offense was rocking and rolling against Carolina Forest, and they led by 16 points at the end of the third quarter before the Panthers made it a closer game with a pair of quick scores in the fourth. Coach Tim Renfrow’s team jumped all over West Brunswick (N.C.) the following week, only to allow a another comeback and win by just seven points. The Braves then jumped out on Lake City 14-0 before giving up the lead in the third quarter before rebounding to win.
Against Conway on Friday, though, Socastee clamped down. The Braves allowed only seven second-half points, scored 15 of their own in the fourth quarter and beat the Tigers for the first time in 14 seasons.
It showed that maybe Socastee is starting to develop a bit of a killer instinct.
“Every game we’ve been in so far it’s been a situation where in the third quarter, it could have gone either way,” Renfrow said. “It could have gone either way in the fourth quarter. [Against Conway] we were able to hang in there and make some adjustments. We were able to win it. We haven’t done that in that past.”
Last year was a great example.
The Braves finished the year 5-7, and of those seven losses, four came by six points or less. It is part of the continued transition for a team that now has to be considered one of the area’s best.
Socastee (4-0) will head to Renfrow’s alma mater, Lake View, this week in hopes of being 5-0 for the first time since 2003, his first season as the Braves’ coach. It’s the first time the teams have played since he took over his current position, but he maintains thoughts of remaining undefeated trump any nostalgia.
“Because it’s been so long, it’s just another game against a good football team,” said Renfrow, who graduated from Lake View in 1979 before then moving on to Wofford. “They know how to win. They’re not your average [Class] A football team. They’ve won a bunch of state championships.”
Lake View played for the Class A, Division II title last year, losing to Christ Church. The Wild Gators have won five state titles since 1980 and nine overall – fifth all time in state history.
Winning the game would also throw another milestone Renfrow’s way. The Braves’ 10th-year coach would earn his 50th victory at Socastee.
In the immediate, getting to 5-0 with three defensive starters missing a significant portion of the non-region slate with various injuries would be crucial, too. Cornerback Erick Mortel and defensive lineman Joe Smolenski have not played since the first game of the year. Linebacker Finn Melko has missed the last two contests.
Renfrow said he expects all three to return following the bye week, putting the Braves’ defense closer to full strength for the Region VII-AAA opener Sept. 28 at home against North Myrtle Beach.
Conway trying to ‘drive on’
The team Socastee defeated last week has gone in the other direction.
While the Braves are relishing an opportunity to be 5-0, Conway is 1-3 and facing another tough non-region opponent this week at home against Marlboro County. Needless to say, this isn’t where coach Chuck Jordan wanted to be, but he’s doing his best to stop the bleeding.
“The bottom line is, you’ve got to forget it and drive on,” Jordan said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We all have disappointments in this life. The thing I try to say to kids is you try to get beyond it as quick as you can.
“I try to do the same thing. I’m good at it sometimes. I’m bad at it sometimes.”
The Tigers chased a 42-25 victory over Georgetown in the season opener with lopsided losses to Northwestern and Rock Hill. Those preceded Friday’s 35-21 loss to Socastee.
This week won’t be any easier.
Marlboro County won its first two games by a combined score of 85-0 before losing a close one to Scotland County (N.C.). In total, the Bulldogs have given up just 20 points this season.
Maybe just as important, they’ve now had two full weeks to prepare for Conway.
“We have got to slow them down by moving the ball around,” Jordan said. “If we let them pigeon-hole us and chase the ball down, we’re going to be in trouble.”
That means the Tigers will have to again move the football on a consistent basis. They did that last week with quarterback Mykal Moody (124 yards rushing) and tailback Tyreke Phillips (107 yards rushing). However, Conway also had a pair of turnovers.
“We’re rushing the ball well,” Jordan said. “We’re just not finishing our drives. We’re making a mistake here or there or having a fumble. You just go to work and try to fix those things.”
Conway’s offense is also expected to have tailback Jaquail Crosland back this week. Crosland did not play in last week’s loss due to what Jordan said was a violation of team rules.
Finding statistics for S.C. players throughout history isn’t always easy.
But this much is for certain: Conway’s Mykal Moody is on the verge of joining a very exclusive class. With another 116 rushing yards, Moody will have surpassed the 3,000-yard mark in both rushing and passing for his career.
“The thing that makes Mykal such a good one is he’s done it over time,” Jordan said.
Moody broke the passing mark in the season opener this year against Georgetown and has amassed 3,369 yards and 32 touchdowns through the air. By itself, that may not be all that eye-popping.
But combined with his career totals on the ground – 2,884 yards and 47 scores –Moody’s dynamic abilities stand out. It’s helped the dual-threat quarterback receive college offers from Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina State and Marshall.
Chance are, there are at least a handful of former players from around South Carolina who have reached 3,000-3,000. The Sun News is checking with various high schools and colleges around the state, and as of Monday, the only two quarterbacks in state history we’ve confirmed to have reached the 3,000-3,000 club are former Marlboro County and University of South Carolina quarterback Syvelle Newton and former East Clarendon player Carlos Hickson.
We’ll run an update to this later in the week on the Prep Talk blog at MyrtleBeachOnline.com.
Contact IAN GUERIN at email@example.com.