The importance of possessing the football was not lost on North Myrtle Beach football coach Blair Hardin on Friday night.
When his team held on to the football, it was able to do some good things. Unfortunately, the Chiefs chose arguably their biggest game of the season – against Myrtle Beach in a clash of undefeated teams – to be quite careless in securing the rock.
North Myrtle Beach put the ball on the ground four times Friday night, two of which the Seahawks cashed in for touchdowns. Such inefficiency, combined with other miscues like a blocked punt for a safety and a missed field goal, helped Myrtle Beach sprint out to a 16-0 lead, and inevitably allowed it to hang on for a 43-23 victory.
All season long, Hardin has harped on the importance of winning the turnover battle. Though coming in to Friday night’s game 6-0, the Chiefs committed 12 turnovers, 10 of which came by virtue of lost fumbles.
Several weeks ago, the North Myrtle Beach coach warned his team of the consequences should it occur against a quality opponent. “You do that against a quality opponent, it’s going to be tough to win. We have to improve on the little things,” he said.
Finishing at a less than satisfactory minus-3 in the turnover battle against Myrtle Beach, Hardin didn’t mince his words in regard to how such carelessness can lose ballgames.
“We played a very poor first half … very, very poor,” Hardin said. “Turnovers killed us and we gave them short fields … a punt block and the opening kick return dug a hole.”
And nevertheless, the Chiefs found themselves in a position to steal the game. Down 29-23, Myrtle Beach faced third-and-inches at their own 46-yard-line.
A stop potentially hands the ball back to the North Myrtle Beach offense, one that had scored on three straight possessions. Moving the chains at the time wouldn’t be the end of the world, but any score would likely be a death knell.
Inevitably, it took a special effort by Myrtle Beach all-purpose man Keyonte Sessions to finally put the Chiefs away. Yet, Hardin anguished over the many missed opportunities.
“We had chances late in the fourth quarter, down by six with a few minutes left and we just couldn’t finish. (Myrtle Beach) played a good ball game, they’re a good football team,” he said.
The win gives Myrtle Beach the inside track to the Region VII-4A title, a perk that would guarantee the Seahawks at least three home playoff games for as long they win. While unable to afford another loss, North Myrtle Beach remains firmly in the discussion, eager for its rivals to the south to slip up and leave the door cracked for it to creep back in.
Even though the pursuit of an undefeated season is now gone, the sense remains the same for those in blue and gold – this group of Chiefs is darn good.
“We saw some of the fight in this team,” the North Myrtle Beach head man said. “Though we did some things that didn’t allow us to win, there were plenty of things we did well. And that’s why I still like this team, and think there is still plenty out there for us to accomplish.”
AROUND THE AREA
▪ Touchdowns by Lake View quarterback Duane Nichols and running back De’Ante Bridgett allowed the Wild Gators to sprint out to a 22-8 halftime lead, one Class A’s No. 2 team was able to hold on to to down a game Green Sea Floyds squad. The game was both teams’ Region VI-A opener.
▪ Georgetown claimed its fourth consecutive victory Friday night, running for 261 yards en route to a 33-0 victory over Aynor in its Region VI-3A opener. The shutout was the Bulldogs’ second in as many games, limiting the Blue Jackets to 82 total yards.
▪ No matter who head coach Marc Morris puts in the Carolina Forest backfield, the philosophy remains the same – the Panthers will run the football. Jaylen Johnson was the most recent recipient, rushing for 175 yards and a touchdown as Carolina Forest downed Socastee, 35-14, opening Region VI-5A play with a win.
▪ Conway picked a perfect night to play its most complete game of the season, dominating both lines of scrimmage en route to a 48-14 win over West Florence to open Region VI-5A play. Quarterback Peyton Derrick passed for 248 yards and two touchdowns – both of which were to wide receiver Darren Stanley.
▪ Carvers Bay strengthened its hold on Region VII-2A on Friday night, notching a 38-0 victory over Marion. Janaz Sumpter ran for two touchdowns in his first start under center, in addition to throwing for two more scores.
▪ Lake City kicked the door open in Region VI-3A, welcoming itself to the league with a 28-0 win over Loris. Panthers quarterback Chris Burnette completed 23 of 30 passes for 267 yards and four touchdowns. The Lake City defense was truly the difference, though, limiting Loris to 61 total yards of offense and four first downs.
▪ Trailing 17-7 late in the first half, Marlboro County earned a small bit of momentum just before intermission, scoring a touchdown to draw within three points. That bit of confidence helped the Bulldogs in the second half, shutting out a game St. James squad in the frame en route to a 34-17 win.
▪ The Dillon machine keeps rolling, shutting out Waccamaw for the third consecutive time, this one by a score of 41-0.
Keyonte Sessions, Myrtle Beach: The Seahawks’ all-purpose man rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to a fumble return for a score to help Myrtle Beach remain undefeated with a 43-23 victory over North Myrtle Beach.
Ronnie Bass, North Myrtle Beach: Though in a losing effort, Bass put the Chiefs on his back with 151 passing yards and 141 yards on the ground in a 43-23 loss to Myrtle Beach.
Peyton Derrick, Conway: After a couple of tough weeks in the passing game, Derrick threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers in a 48-14 win over West Florence.
Jaylen Johnson, Carolina Forest: The latest running back to emerge out of head coach Marc Morris’ run-first offensive philosophy. Johnson had 175 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown to lead the Panthers to a 35-14 victory over Socastee.
Darren Stanley, Conway: The senior wide receiver caught four passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns – one of then an 85-yard catch and run – in the the Tigers’ 48-14 win over West Florence.
1. Myrtle Beach: After going through four weeks of rivalry games, the schedule relaxes a bit for the Seahawks, the last undefeated team on the Grand Strand.
2. Carolina Forest: Arguably the most consistent team in the area. You can depend on the Panthers to run the football and play stingy defense.
3. North Myrtle Beach: A valiant comeback fell just short at Myrtle Beach. A bye week should help in regard to aiding the Chiefs’ turnover issues.
4. Georgetown: A second consecutive shutout allowed the Bulldogs to start Region VI-3A play on a high note. Competition ramps up a bit next week, though, when Lake City pays a visit.
5. Conway: Could the Tigers be turning things around? For at least one week, that looks to be the case, Conway playing its best game of the season to open Region VI-5A play with a win.
Lake City at Georgetown (The Sun News’ Game of the Week)
Aynor at Waccamaw
Creek Bridge at Green Sea Floyds
Dillon at Loris
Mullins at Carvers Bay
Myrtle Beach at St. James
Socastee at Conway
South Florence at Carolina Forest