Prep notebook | Conway football entering pivotal stretch

For The Sun NewsOctober 1, 2012 

For the ups and downs Conway has gone through so far this season, the Tigers can start making things right Friday.

Coach Chuck Jordan’s team will kick off Region VI-AAAA play on the road at West Florence (5-1), and a win would be a step in the right direction toward making the playoffs. And with every region game meaning so much more than it did even last year, there’s little room for error.

To the Tigers, that means shoring up a defense that has been lit up the last few weeks.

“Every season presents its own set of problems and its own set of positives,” Jordan said. “One of the negatives this season is we have not played well enough on defense to stand up.”

Conway (2-4) is allowing 41 points per game this season. The Tigers have twice allowed 55 – in losses to Northwestern and Myrtle Beach.

It’s led Jordan to start using offensive stars Mykal Moody and Malcolm Green a bit more on defense, although the coach said it’s a situational approach that he won’t use blindly.

Either way, Conway can make many of its poor defensive efforts start disappearing with this week’s game at West Florence.

If nothing else, the sample size for determining the three guaranteed playoff teams from Region VI-AAAA this season is going to be smaller. Each team – Carolina Forest, Conway, South Florence, Sumter and West Florence – have just four games to make their final impressions for postseason qualification. The squads have cross-bracketed games with Region VII-AAAA, another five-team field.

However, those games, including Carolina Forest’s trip to Goose Creek this week, will not count in the region standings. The system made sure every team in both regions wasn’t losing a Class AAAA team, although there were some quirks.

For instance, Conway will play three of its four region games on the road, while Carolina Forest will get three at home. The other three teams are evenly split, but Sumter’s region slate will be over one week prior to the end of the regular season.

Jordan downplayed the home vs. road argument, and possibly because he’s got bigger issues to deal with.

“I don’t know if we’re good enough to turn it around,” Jordan said. “We’re going to find out.”

Bruised and Battered Bowl

Georgetown is heading to North Myrtle Beach this week with an opportunity to be one of just two undefeated teams in Region VII-AAA after two games.

Socastee and Myrtle Beach (both 6-0 overall and 1-0 region) play Friday night in the game that will determine which team has front-runner status.

But the Georgetown-North Myrtle Beach contest may be more about who can outlast the other. Both teams are dealing with significant injuries to key players, and their status probably won’t be known until later in the week.

The Bulldogs (4-2, 1-0) got past St. James in the region opener despite losing tailback Julian Lunsford just four carries into the game. The senior had 42 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown and a 25-yard run, before suffering a sprained foot. Georgetown coach Bradley Adams said Lunsford (574 yards, five touchdowns this season) is day-to-day, and the team will make a decision on him Wednesday.

It’s by no means the first time the Bulldogs have lost personnel.

“We have played several ballgames with five, six starters out,” Adams said. “If we were a healthy football team, we could really make some noise, but we’re just not a healthy team.”

Maybe the biggest blow to this point has been that of linebacker Cody Floyd. The junior broke his arm earlier this year and after surgery will most likely be out for the remainder of the season barring a deep playoff run.

And while the injuries may not be as severe for the Chiefs (4-2, 0-1), they are as crucial.

Starting tailback Delonzo Williams, who was leading the area in rushing yards coming into last week’s game at Socastee, was held out due to a sprained ankle. Then, in the third quarter, starting quarterback Kendrick Furness re-aggravated a similar injury he suffered in Week 1.

It amplifies the battle of attrition high school teams go through, and it’s certainly not limited to just Georgetown and North Myrtle Beach.

“I know Myrtle Beach is going through it. … It’s that time of the year,” Adams said. “It would be great not to have to fight these injuries every single week.”

Atkinson injury not as bad as feared

Carolina Forest received some good news when tests on Harold Atkinson last week showed that his right knee did not sustain significant damage in the team’s last game at Beaufort.

Atkinson, who took a helmet to the knee, was diagnosed with bruising, not the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament tear. Still, he won’t be rushed back into action.

Panthers coach Drew Hummel said over the weekend that Atkinson will play once he has regained full flexibility and movement, and that he needs to be “close to 100 percent” before he’ll be back on the field.

Carolina Forest plays its final non-region game of the year Friday at Goose Creek, the defending Class AAAA, Division II state champion and again one of the state’s best this season. The Panthers then play South Florence at home Oct. 12.

That game will be more important to Hummel. And Atkinson – who has rushed for 553 yards and eight scores and caught another 165 yards and two scores worth – will be needed in order to make a push in Region VI-AAAA.

On campus

In case you missed it, 2008 North Myrtle Beach graduate Chip Hester had a monster game Saturday in Louisiana Tech’s win at Virginia.

Hester recorded 14 total tackles and returned a third-quarter interception 32 yards for a score for the Bulldogs. Louisiana Tech is 4-0 and has wins over a pair of BCS conference schools after also beating Illinois.

Hester is a big reason why. Through four games, he’s third on the team in tackles (26) and is one of four players with an interception.

He was selected to the 2007 SCADA North-South All-Star Football game prior to playing for two seasons at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. He led Hutchinson in tackles as a sophomore and then made the move to Louisiana Tech prior to last season.

During his time at North Myrtle Beach, Hester was also a three-time state wrestling champion at the 215-pound weight class. He finished his career 183-14, which was in the top 30 in state history for individual victories.

Contact IAN GUERIN at ian@ianguerin.com.

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