Perry Woolbright isn’t kidding when he says his players’ confidence level is starting to peak.
Just 21 months removed from the end of back-to-back winless seasons, North Myrtle Beach is not the same squad of guys who failed to win a game for consecutive years. The Chiefs are coming off a five-win 2012 and have a handful of players who would be starting for any Grand Strand high school.
What’s more, the top talent on this roster believes it can compete.
“I feel like we can beat anybody we play. That’s how we feel,” tailback Delonzo Williams said. “We feel like nobody can beat us – no matter who it is.”
Woolbright’s fourth season as a head coach will more than likely be his best yet.
Nine starters return on the offense while another eight are back on defense. Williams, a senior, leads the list of notables after rushing for 1,149 yards and 14 touchdowns in just eight games a year ago. There’s also junior quarterback Kendrick Furness, who threw for a respectable 700 yards and six touchdowns despite battling a high-ankle sprain and missing approximately half of last season.
Receivers Kyle Cooper, Cameron Gore and Colby Gore give Furness plenty of targets on the outside. And the Chiefs’ offensive line was recognized during summer drills as one of the best in the area.
The other side of the ball is nearly as recognizable. Linebackers Laquinn Bellamy and Keyshawn Moore each topped the 100-tackle mark last year. Cameron Gore and five other returners should be able to improve a unit that allowed a better-than-average 23 points per game last year.
It’s part of the evolution of the North Myrtle Beach program, one that in Woolbright’s first season was relying on youth in hopes it would eventually pay off.
“These kids aren’t freshman and sophomores any more. They’re juniors and seniors,” Woolbright said. “There are three-year returning starters who have started since their ninth-grade years. Now, they’re the older kids on the block. They’re bigger, they’re stronger, they’re faster. They’re know they can win now.”
The team’s four on-field victories (a four-point loss to Wilson was eventually overturned due to forfeit) in 2012 could again be matched by the time the non-region slate is completed. The team would be considered the favorite against four of its five non-region opponents.
However, the difference Woolbright wants to see is against Region VII-AAA competition. The team has yet to win one of those games on the field during his three years. Part of that could be attributed to the youth.
That explanation, though, has evaporated.
North Myrtle Beach has its biggest senior class in at least seven years. Many of those 17 seniors are starters. But even the ones who aren’t have done something that wasn’t happening in the past: remained in the program.
“It’s definitely a lot more fun when you win,” Woolbright said. “It was good for me and the staff and the kids. We were able to see the growth from the first year. It’s fun to see their development. Guys like Delonzo and Laquinn, they were little ninth-graders. Now, they’re guys who can take over a game.”