COLUMBIA — In a dark corner of one of the back rooms of Williams-Brice Stadium, Mickey Wilson collapsed into black leather chair, physically and mentally exhausted.
He was elated, but a long season, one complete with his second Class AAA state championship, had taken its toll. Thinking back to everything that went into it for his Myrtle Beach football team, how unimaginable this truly was not so long ago, was overwhelming.
He needed to crash, even if only for a few brief moments before his team caught its rowdy bus ride back home.
“I’ve watched so much film, it’s blurry,” Wilson said after the 24-21 win over Daniel. “It’s time to get some rest. … I’m going to try to get some full nights’ sleep for a change.
“Nobody thought we’d be in this situation. I’d be lying if at times I wasn’t so sure that I believe that.”
Myrtle Beach hit its low point of the season when it was upended by Carolina Forest in September. After that loss, a dejected Wilson was short on words, repeating only that his team wasn’t very good.
Saturday night, it was a different story.
Kicker Sean Huggins’ 22-yard kick at the end of the fourth quarter was good, leading to the 26 text messages Wilson received by the time he made his way to reporters.
More messages were on their way. Thanks to one heck of a streak in the last two months, those were texts of congratulations.
The Seahawks (11-4) won their eighth straight game and seventh state title in program history after another strong defensive showing and a memorable final drive led by sophomore quarterback Drayton Arnold.
After Daniel tied the game with a 5-ard Austin Barnes touchdown run with 4:02 left, Arnold and the offense took the field. After a quick first down, the Seahawks were against a wall following a 13-yard sack.
That’s where Arnold’s first big throw of the drive happened. He was pressured out of the pocket, only to find receiver Kelton Greene for a 25-yard pass to cross midfield.
“I knew how fast Kelton was,” Arnold said. “From watching film, I knew how inexperienced and slow their safeties looked. Kelton obviously caught it very well.”
Said Wilson: “It was our No. 1 read. … I guess he just stayed on it. He thought Kelton was good and he lofted it up there. Kelton, it looked like he jumped 30 feet in the air.”
Three plays later, Arnold completed the second defining throw.
Again forced from the pocket, he found senior tight end Graham Vaughn leaving his defender behind inside the red zone. Vaughn made a diving catch near the sideline, putting the Seahawks into field goal range. Vaughn was one of six Myrtle Beach players to catch a pass against the Lions.
“When you have receivers scrambling everywhere, it just messes up the defense,” Vaughn said. “I popped open, and that’s how it happened.
“Offensively, we’re a threat with receivers and with Brandon [Sinclair] running the ball. With us, someone’s always going to be open. We’ve just got playmakers on offense.”
Sinclair didn’t have much success running the ball, gaining 33 yards on 26 carries. But what it did was keep the Daniel defense from concentrating solely on the pass.
Arnold took advantage and finished with one of his best games of the season. He completed 20 of 37 attempts for 276 yards and three touchdowns, two to Vaughn. He had 73 passing yards on the final drive alone.
Defensively, the team was for the most part able to minimize Daniel’s top weapon, Shrine Bowl running back Jae’Lon Oglesby. The senior had 173 yards rushing, but 123 came on two carries. It was a far cry from the Lions team that entered that game averaging 40.2 points per game. Daniel was held to two first downs in the opening half. Oglesby had 10 yards on five yards in that time frame, and his most influential carry equated to a short run that he fumbled when he was tackled by Seahawks senior Heath Gray.
Myrtle Beach pounced on the fumble just inside midfield, and seven plays later, Arnold found a wide-open Vaughn for a 21-yard touchdown and the first points of the game.
The score remained 7-0 until just before the break when Arnold when picked off by Lion defensive back Amir Trapp, who returned it 85 yards for Daniel’s only touchdown before the break.
The Lions got Oglesby’s 81-yard touchdown scamper in the third and Barnes’ in the fourth. But it wasn’t enough.
As the final minutes ticked off the clock, Myrtle Beach earned the state championship.
“[Wilson] prides us coming out in the fourth quarter and not being tired and playing the whole way,” Vaughn said. “That’s what we did.”
With its improbable run complete in grand fashion, the players – and its coaches – can celebrate.
MB-Graham Vaughn 21 pass from Drayton Arnold (Sead Huggins kick)
D-Amir Trapp 85 interception return (Christian Groomes kick)
D-Jae’Lon Oglesby 81 run (Groomes kick)
MB-C.J. Finkley 18 pass from Arnold (Higgins kick)
MB-Vaughn 2 pass from Arnold (Higgins kick)
D-Austin Barnes 5 run (Groomes kick)
MB-Huggins 22 FG
RUSHING— D:Jae’Lon Oglesby 16-173; Jared Dillingham 9-33; Austin Barnes 7-27; Michael Peppers 2-7; Andy McCall 5-(-)5. MB: Brandon Sinclair 26-33; Drayton Arnold 10-12
PASSING—D: McCall 4-10-1, 71 yards. MB: Arnold 20-37-1, 276 yards.
RECEIVING—D: Oglesby 2-21; Barnes 1-38; Charles Colberg 1-12. MB: Graham Vaughn 5-83; Kelton Greene 4-70; C.J. Finkley 5-62; Sinclair 2-38; Malik Waring 3-22; Keyonte Sessions 1-1.
Contact IAN GUERIN at firstname.lastname@example.org.