For a while, Denver Cromer got the kind of production necessary to keep Lake City from blowing the game wide open.
North Myrtle Beach moved the ball enough to limit the Panthers to just three first-half possessions. Cromer's team also matched Lake City in rushing yards and first downs through three quarters.
It wasn't enough.
After trailing by eight points to start the fourth quarter, the Chiefs found themselves susceptible to Lake City's running game, eventually losing 33-11 in the Region VII-AAA game.
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Still, Cromer wasn't too upset with the effort.
``I'm as happy as I can be after a loss,'' he said. ``Now [the North Myrtle Beach players] are seeing it actually paying off, that they can line up with somebody like Lake City for three quarters. We've got a brighter future right now.''
Although that appears to be the case, the hope for the future couldn't stand the test of the Panthers running game, especially Shon Carson.
Carson, one of the most highly touted juniors in the state, had 110 rushing yards in the third quarter and the first 3:14 of the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 220 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries.
Carson's reputation preceded him, and Cromer did everything he could to stop him from touching the ball. That strategy included lots of early running from his own offense in hopes of keeping Carson on the sideline.
Tailbacks Timmane Bellamy, Kelton Chestnut and Brandon Johnson moved the ball effectively in the first half, getting within striking distance three times. However, Lake City's defense tightened up the closer the Chiefs got to the goal line, and North Myrtle Beach kicker Zach Crawl was only able to hit one of his three field goal attempts.
The strategy did serve its purpose, as it prevented the Panthers from getting abundant opportunities to score early.
``We didn't want the ball in [Carson and fellow tailback Sheldon Robinson's] hands,'' Cromer said. ``You saw what happened when they did.''
Chestnut said sometime during the third quarter, Lake City's defense started forcing the Chiefs running attack toward the outside.
``We were moving the ball pretty well,'' Chestnut said. ``I think we were spread too far out when we got the ball in the second half.''
North Myrtle Beach dropped to 3-5 overall and 1-2 in region play.
Georgetown's loss to Socastee on Friday night keeps the Chiefs in line for one of the region's four playoff spots.
Lake City appears to have a hold on the second spot in the region firmly in place after improving to 7-1 and 2-1.
Still, if the Chiefs can beat St. James next week, they will be going to the playoffs.
``We're all looking forward to getting to the playoffs,'' Chestnut said.
``This next game is important. Best believe we're gonna come out with a bang.
``When we get to the playoffs, we're not gonna play no games.''