North Myrtle Beach has opted to keep it in the family in regard to the choice of its next football coach.
Matt Reel was announced Monday as the Chiefs’ new head coach, taking over for Blair Hardin, who departed to take on the same position at River Bluff High School in Lexington.
Players were informed of the news by Reel during fourth period Monday.
For the past three seasons, the new North Myrtle Beach head man served as the team’s offensive coordinator, as well as its offensive line coach. Reel also led the program’s junior varsity squad.
In addition to serving on the gridiron, he served as a baseball coach at the school, along with working as associated strength and conditioning coordinator.
At first, Reel admitted he wanted to make it a normal day — for him and his students. But it isn’t everyday that you’re named a head football coach.
“It was a normal, typical functioning day. Of course, I was in weight training classes all day when my phone just started going haywire,” he said. “Everyone was calling, texting, offering congratulations. That’s when it started sinking in, (Monday) isn’t a typical day. I might as well go ahead and embrace it.”
Reel takes the reins of a North Myrtle Beach program that went 11-2 a season ago, earning a Region VII-4A title and a pair of playoff wins. Many pieces from that squad remain, along with a deep well of talent behind it. The Chiefs’ JV squad went 21-3 over the past three years — going undefeated in league play during that span.
With that in mind, North Myrtle Beach athletic director Joe Quigley said he and a committee tasked with selecting a new coach felt it best to stay in house, particularly with the foundation that was developed under the past two regimes.
“We were looking to keep the program moving in the direction that it was trending,” he said. “(Reel) understands all phases — team, community, academics and the building of young men. I feel that we just took another step toward being the football program we want to be, and that is one that can contend year in and year out.”
Don’t expect too many changes on the field either as Reel says the team will continue to employ many of the same schemes run over the past few seasons under Hardin.
“That’s one of the great things about having so many guys coming back. We’re still going to have a lot of the continuity that made (the 2016 season) special,” he said. “We’re still going to run shotgun and triple option on offense, and still largely have a four-man front on the defensive side, though we may some odd man in there. Our goal is to keep things flowing the same way as they were.”
Also a finalist for the job was another North Myrtle Beach assistant football coach, Zachary Johnson, who along with Reel served as a leader during the transition process. He is expected to remain on Chiefs’ coaching staff, according to Quigley.
“We can say we have two quality coaches,” the North Myrtle Beach athletic director said. “The feeling is that we have the right people here that could take over. Certainly, we miss Blair Hardin, but we had to move on and continue the daily work of getting better.”
If there was a negative for Reel, it is that he must now give up one of his passions — baseball — to focus fully on another.
“Yeah, that’s it,” he said. “I had to tell my junior varsity team that to focus on football I could no longer coach baseball. The kids took it well, though, and offered me congratulations.”