With the hard work finally done, North Myrtle Beach coaches felt it was the perfect time to put on their dancing shoes.
Following through on a bet made with players, a few Chiefs coaches broke out in a jig in the postgame huddle.
No one cared about the lack of rhythm. It was yet another memory added to what has proven to be a special season for those in Little River.
North Myrtle Beach repeatedly answered the bell Friday night, outmuscling a physical Cane Bay squad to earn a 28-14 win. With the victory, the Chiefs move on to the Lower State semifinal round, where they will meet Chapin.
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“We just played a base defense, you can’t do much against a triple-option team,” said North Myrtle Beach head coach Blair Hardin. “Our front seven did an outstanding job (Friday night). We knew (Cane Bay) was going to get yards, just as they’ve done all season.
“They were so much bigger than us, but our guys are relentless, we got some great turnovers and points when we needed them. This is just a great, hard-fought victory.”
Up by a touchdown for a large swath of the game, the Chiefs’ defense kept Cane Bay out of the end zone on two occasions – one by way of a goal-line stand, the other via an interception in the end zone.
“Those were huge for momentum … our kids just fought,” Hardin said. “All you can ask them to do is fight, and for that I am most proud.”
Nevertheless, midway through the third the Cobras were finally able to break through for a score, knotting the game up at 7.
Under most pressure situations, a sophomore quarterback making only his second playoff start would be overwhelmed. But showcasing the moxie and resolve of a proven veteran, Cason McClendon swiftly moved North Myrtle Beach back in front.
Needing 15 yards to move the sticks, he hit wideout Cullin Mitchell for 19 yards and a first down. After tacking on 15 yards due to a personal foul, McClendon connected with another member of the Chiefs’ receiving corps, Tyron Stockdale, for a 39-yard catch and run to put them back up by a touchdown.
“We just stepped up. It was a real physical game at the start, but we played as a team in the second half … that’s what you have to do to win big games,” McClendon said. “It takes a lot of pressure off me as a quarterback to have such receivers, running backs and offensive line that you know are going to do their job, and let me go out there and play.”
Again down by a touchdown, a fumble by Cane Bay quarterback R.J. Roderick gifted North Myrtle Beach with great field position. The Chiefs would not squander the golden opportunity, with the sophomore quarterback’s second touchdown of the night – this one a 5-yard strike to Mitchell – putting them up 21-7 a few minutes into the fourth period.
North Myrtle Beach would officially turn out the lights on any Cane Bay hopes of a comeback on its following possession. Forcing the Cobras to turn the ball over on downs, versatile playmaker Tyler Gore accepted the pitch on a reverse and outran several tacklers to pay dirt, putting the Chiefs up 28-7.
Cane Bay would cut into the final margin with under two minutes left as running back DeAndre Dingle ran one in from 5 yards out.
Though not happy about allowing the Cobras in for a score that was more cosmetic than meaningful, Hardin was satisfied in the fact his team stared down a bully … and won.
“Hats off to Cane Bay, they’re an excellent football team, very physical,” he said. “But I’m just so proud of how tough our kids played all night long.”
NMB — Kered Class 3 run (Andrew Smith kick)
CB — Kris Copeland 7 run (Jacob Greenwell kick)
NMB — Tyron Stockdale 39 pass from Cason McClendon (Smith kick)
NMB — Cullin Mitchell 5 pass from McClendon (Smith kick)
NMB — Tyler Gore 41 run (Smith kick)
CB — DeAndre Dingle 5 run (Greenwell kick)
Rushing: CB: Kris Copeland 12-115, R.J. Roderick 28-118, Damon Deford 16-75, DeAndre Dingle 2-13; NMB: Kered Class 14-98, Tyler Gore 2-50, T.J. Gore 4-24, Nick Vereen 1-(-5).
Passing: CB: Roderick 4-10-1 61 yards, Copeland 0-1-0, DeAntre Walker 0-1-0, Damon Deford 1-1-0 20 yards; NMB: Cason McClendon 12-20-0 145 yards.
Receiving: Copeland 2-23, Walker 1-41, Deford 1-(-3), Roderick 1-20; NMB: Cullin Mitchell 4-67, Tyron Stockdale 2-49, Tyler Gore 2-21, Xavier Clarida 2-10, Dondre Thompson 2-(-2).