Hunter Renfrow has never been about the numbers.
The Socastee quarterback is closing in on 5,000 total yards of offense in the last three years. In doing so, he’s led the Braves to the two best seasons in school history, a 12-1 record last year and this season’s 11-0 start heading into Friday’s second-round playoff game against Hartsville.
Somehow, even those figures aren’t enough.
“He’s our franchise,” said teammate Delano Walters, the team’s leading rusher this season with 1,379 yards.
The current class of Socastee seniors, including Walters, is going to graduate with more playoffs victories than any other team in school history. A program that had never had an undefeated regular season in its first 50 or so years of football now has done it two seasons in a row.
And with a win against Hartsville, the Braves will advance to the Lower State semifinals for the second time ever – not so coincidentally for the second straight year.
For all the success, and for all the players and coaches and parents who have been a part of it, few believe the rise of Socastee football would have happened the way it did or when it did without Hunter Renfrow.
The wow factor
How Renfrow has scored many of his 60 touchdowns over the course of the last three years are the reason people are so in awe of his talents.
This season alone, he had a rush of at least 28 yards in nine of the team’s 10 regular-season games. The one game he didn’t – against Conway in September – he still ran for 139 yards. His combination of field vision, cuts, starting and stopping ability and pure speed in the open field have brought Socastee fans to their feet time after time.
Assistant coach Steve Hodge, one of the reasons the Braves use the option offense, doesn’t always believe what he’s seen the first time around from the kid executing the plays.
“There have been guys who have controlled it a little better. Maybe they’ve thrown a little better,” Hodge said. “But the thing is, when he misreads it, he can make something happen. It makes an offensive coordinator look like a genius. You see it [live], you know it was impressive. But then you slow it down and go ‘How did he do that?’”
Since Renfrow took over the quarterback job late in his sophomore season, many have asked the same thing.
Socastee’s offense is based on split-second reads. The quarterback must be able to see both in front and behind him at the same time, making sure the ball is in the hands of the proper running back – and recently, as first-year coach Doug Illing has instituted more of a passing game, the right receiver.
But when the play is drawn up for him or it breaks down altogether, that’s when Renfrow’s abilities come to the forefront.
“It surprises me. I try to do it and it doesn’t work,” Walters said. “I’ve seen him take a 250-pound lineman and throw him over his shoulder, juke left, juke right, go back, turn around… It’s amazing.”
As much as it stings sometimes, opposing coaches respect Renfrow just as much.
“What Everett Golson was to us in the spread, he’s that to them in the option,” Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson said. “I think he’s phenomenal. I’ve seen people play the option perfect, and he knew it was about to be played perfect, and he backpedals, makes a move around the defense and scores a touchdown. Some of the stuff that he does is amazing.
“I know they’ve had some good football players, but he’s the type of kid who has put that football team on his back and carried them to tremendous places they’ve never been before.”
Grace under fire
Sounding like it could have originally come out of an agent’s mouth in a public relations seminar, Hodge completes the trifecta by using the same word as Walters and Wilson. Unprompted, and on more than one occasion, he called Renfrow “amazing.”
What Hodge went on to say about the Braves senior stands out even more.
“He’s got the complete package. He’s such a great kid,” he said. “He’s very humble. Most kids that have half the talent he’s got are twice as arrogant.”
That humility hasn’t lessened as Renfrow’s gained a bigger share of the spotlight. If anything, he’s only gotten better at doing whatever he can to share it.
He used the first-round playoff victory over Hilton Head last week, when he injured his ankle and missed the second half, to point out the play of back-up quarterback Jordan Hodge and Walters, who rushed for a season-high 278 yards. He has said repeatedly in the last two years that without his offensive line and receivers blocking, none of his long plays would have happened.
Renfrow also admits, however, that the high expectations of this season’s team have lessened the amount people focus on him.
“I felt like it was new to me last year,” he said. “We had one of the best seasons in school history. I feel like more people were talking about it last year, talking about me, than this year. But I think it would be kind of selfish to think about me and them only looking at me.”
That kind of talk is what people who know Renfrow best have come to expect.
Even those who have never met him have a similar perception. In an age when college coaches proactively squirm in preparation of what they might find on recruits’ social media pages, Renfrow uses his Twitter account to praise buddies who have had big games or made college commitments, compliment his girlfriend and quote bible passages.
That attitude extends to the field.
“Even when we’re playing a game and somebody does a cheap shot on him, he’ll get up and tap the other player in the helmet,” Walters said. “If other players talk junk, he’s not going to talk; he’s not going to retaliate. He’s all positive. I’ve never heard a negative word out of him.”
In his blood
This spring, Hunter Renfrow will be suiting up for a Braves’ baseball team already expected to be one of the best in the state after a deep playoff run last season.
He’ll likely leave his mark as the team’s starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter.
His play on the gridiron, though, is something many believe he was born for. Renfrow’s father, Braves Athletics Director Tim Renfrow, is in his second stint in that position after coaching the varsity football team for a decade.
Two of Tim’s older sons, Ayres and Jordan, graduated from Socastee in 2009 and 2012, respectively. One more, sophomore Cole, appears bound for significant playing time in the very near future. In between, Hunter Renfrow has put another huge family stamp on the football program.
“I knew he was going to be something special,” Walters said. “In rec league, seventh grade, he was all right. But in eighth grade, he broke out. That’s when I knew he was going to be a great player.”
Even with a loss Friday against Hartsville, that opinion will remain.
Renfrow’s Socastee career has been an electric ride of touchdowns and victories. For every one of the latter he adds, he’ll continue to defer credit to his teammates and coaches.
He always does.
After all, there’s a possibility all this attention, all the talk of what he’s meant to a sports program, is being looked at in too broad of a sense.
Asked about what he believes his legacy will be, he kept it much simpler.
“Hopefully it’s a good one,” Renfrow said. “I’m just playing football for the school that I loved growing up. I haven’t really thought about it. I’m just trying to win a game this week.”
Contact IAN GUERIN at firstname.lastname@example.org.