Zach Hyde is just fine with everyone talking about Socastee’s offense.
Yes, the Braves are averaging 38 points per game. Yes, quarterback Hunter Renfrow is a star-studded player recently named the Region VII-AAA Player of the Year. And yes, opposing defenses are often lost in an effort to slow down the Braves’ triple-option attack.
In Hyde’s eyes, though, all of that has masked what has been a major factor in Socastee’s 11-0 start and entry into the second round of the Class AAA playoffs.
“I like how people don’t expect anything,” Hyde said in advance of Friday night’s game against Berkeley. “They just think they can do anything they want against us. And then they have another thing coming.
“Offense always gets all the glory, but defense wins championships. We’ve got to show them what we can do.”
Socastee’s defense has held its own when compared to its high-scoring offensive counterpart.
The Braves have allowed 17 points per game overall this season. However, even that number is misleading.
Socastee’s highest point-total allowed this year was the 40 it gave up to Carolina Forest in the season opener. The Braves then allowed 28 and 25 to West Brunswick and Lake City, respectively, in the next two games before giving up 20 to Conway.
Since then, Socastee has not given up more than the 17 it did to Myrtle Beach on Oct. 5. In the last seven games – including last week’s first-round win over Crestwood – the Braves are allowing fewer than 11 points per game.
That progression, coach Tim Renfrow said, is one part experience mixed with one-part health. Several players went down with injuries. Linebackers Adam Crane and Finn Melko, defensive back Erick Mortel and defensive lineman Joe Smolenski, among, others, all spent time on the sidelines.
The team didn’t get closer to full strength on that side of the ball until the beginning of region play. Also factor in that at any given snap, the Braves may have nine or 10 seniors playing at once.
“We knew we should be better, just because we’ve got guys like Adam Crane and Dakota [Morgan] who have been playing three years,” Renfrow said. “Early in the year, we just got beat up defensively. It seems all our injuries were defensive injuries.”
Now, they’re healthy.
All that experience and talent has led to a staggering number when it comes to causing turnovers. Socastee has forced 31 (19 interceptions, 12 fumble recoveries) so far this season.
Hyde has a team-high five picks, followed by Mortel’s four. The team has two each from Wayne Baurle, Hunter Renfrow, McKenzie Pinckney and Matt Chatfield. Delano Walters and Kris Simmons have one each.
Chatfield and Melko have two fumble recoveries each; Morgan, Mortel, Simmons, Buck Bacot, Andrew Baddou, Stephen Johnston, Angelo Sauter and Sam McKinney each have another.
That’s a total of 15 different players who have at least one turnover for the Braves this season.
“We play hungry and are always after the ball,” Crane said.
By comparison, the Braves offense has only nine turnovers (four interceptions, five fumbles) this season. That means, on average, Socastee’s turnover margin is plus-two per game. That’s a number that even some recent state championship teams couldn’t touch.
“Defensively, we’ve never been in a situation where we got this many turnovers,” Tim Renfrow said. “It’s just tremendous. People don’t understand how much it helps you when you get turnovers.
“When you’ve got confidence, you see the ball better, you strip the ball more. You’re not just trying to make tackles. You’ve got more people around the ball. You’ve got people stripping the ball, there to recover it, get interceptions.”
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