Another of the Grand Strand’s top high school football players has made a verbal commitment.
Carolina Forest running back Harold Atkinson, who rushed for more than 2,400 yards combined in the last two seasons, will be heading to South Carolina State. Atkinson originally had an offer sheet that included BCS schools Minnesota, Indiana, N.C. State and Kentucky, as well as East Carolina.
The newest option will allow him more time to acclimate to college and he’ll be in the mix for significant playing time at an earlier pace. He’ll be able to do that while staying closer to home.
“I think that has a lot to do with it,” Carolina Forest coach Drew Hummel said. “I know his family is ecstatic that he’s going to be an hour to an hour-and-a-half down the road and they’re going to be able to go watch him play.
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“South Carolina State has a rich tradition there, and they put tons of guys out. That will be a great fit for Harold.”
Atkinson was named to the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas as a senior. He was also selected to play in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Houston.
He had a monster junior season in which he ran for 1,472 yards and 13 touchdowns. That year, he also caught 10 passes for 116 yards and a score.
As a senior, his numbers dipped some, but much of that had to do with an increased work load on defense. Because of needs there, he also played outside linebacker, where he tallied 42 tackles, four tackles for loss and a pass break-up.
In addition to the NCAA Division I offers, Atkinson also had plenty more from junior colleges that believed he might go that route while easing into college. It was not immediately clear if Atkinson will be on full scholarship his first year at South Carolina State.
The Bulldogs – a traditional Mid-East Athletic Conference contender – continued to pursue him. Atkinson was part of a large number of players who took visits to the school this weekend, and after a meeting with head coach Buddy Pough on Saturday, Atkinson committed.
“South Carolina State had been on him for a long time,” Hummel said. “They saw him at the Shrine Bowl and he had a good outing. He’s got a big old smile on his face, and that’s what it’s about.”
Atkinson’s commitment to South Carolina State comes after he spent his senior season with former Bulldogs offensive coordinator Joe Blackwell in the same role at Carolina Forest. Blackwell was at S.C. State from 2004-2009 before coaching at Norfolk State for two seasons.
He joined Hummel’s staff this past fall.
Atkinson will be able to make his commitment official on National Signing Day, which is a week from Wednesday.
SCBCA hoops poll
The North Myrtle Beach girls basketball team improved two spot in the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association statewide poll, released Monday.
The Chiefs, who last week defeated Socastee and St. James, moved to 18-2 overall and 6-0 in Region VII-AAA. Jude Hunt’s team is one win away from securing a playoff spot and could win the region as soon as Friday with a pair of victories this week over Wilson and Georgetown.
Two other area teams also remained in the rankings. The North Myrtle Beach boys squad (15-5 overall, 5-1 Region VII-AAA) remained No. 7 in the state following wins last week over St. James and Socastee.
Rounding out the list is Carvers Bay, which moved up a spot in the Class A rankings to No. 3. The Bears (14-5, 6-0 Region VII-A) have won eight straight games. The team’s last loss came Dec. 20 to Myrtle Beach in the Panther Classic.
With one more victory, coach Jeff Mezzatesta’s team will not only secure a playoff spot, but a top-three region finish.
While they may not be ranked in the state, several other area teams are closing in on playoff berths this week.
On the boys side, Myrtle Beach (at Socastee Tuesday, at home against St. James Friday) can lock in a postseason spot with a pair of wins this week. St. James, also in Region VII-AAA, can secure a playoff bid with a pair of wins (at home against Georgetown, at Myrtle Beach) and losses by Wilson and Socastee.
The Region VII-AAA girls standings will also be much clearer after Tuesday night. Myrtle Beach will head to Socastee for a 6 p.m. meeting. Both teams are 4-2 in region play, effectively tied for second place. The Seahawks won the first matchup 34-30 on Jan. 11. The winner of Tuesday’s game could mathematically be in the playoffs, depending on other region matchups, before Friday’s games tip off.
With four games left for most area teams, no squads have been eliminated from playoff contention yet.
Spring sports get the green light
Monday was the first day available for spring sports to commence official practices.
And already, anticipation is building about several area teams.
If last season was any indication, the softball fields around the Grand Strand should again include some of the state’s best teams. Carolina Forest (Class AAAA), St. James and Georgetown (Class AAA) and Green Sea Floyds (Class A) all qualified for the Lower State tournaments in their respective division. Carolina Forest played in the state finals, where they lost to Hillcrest.
The Panthers expect to return all-state selections Marisa Runyon and Sara Sweatt, as well as sophomore pitcher Emily Merriam.
Last week, three Grand Strand baseball teams were included in the preseason statewide rankings. Conway (No. 5, Class AAAA), St. James (No. 6, Class AAA) and Andrews (No. 10, Class AA) all return plenty of talent.
The Waccamaw boys tennis team will be gunning for its eighth straight trip to the Class AA state finals. The Warriors have won four titles in that span, although this will be the first time in five years the team will be without Harrison Richmond, who never lost a match against opponents from inside the state.
Three area track and field teams – Waccamaw girls (No. 2, Class AA), Carvers Bay boys (No. 3, Class A), North Myrtle Beach boys (No. 8, Class AAA), Myrtle Beach boys (No. 9, Class AAA) and the Carvers Bay girls (No. 10, Class A) are also coming off top-10 finishes in their respective state meets from a year ago.
The St. James boys golf team was the highest finisher in that sport. The Sharks ended the season in sixth place at the Class AAA meet. Waccamaw finished seventh at the Class AA meet.
All area teams can play preseason scrimmages beginning Feb. 4, and regular-season games and matches can begin March 4.
Carolina Forest’s Cullen Marcis will sign his national letter of intent for Florence-Darlington Tech on Tuesday at 2 p.m.. Marcis is a pitcher for the Panthers’ baseball team.
The Sun News asks that athletic directors and/or coaches please send schedules for all spring sports to firstname.lastname@example.org.