Carolina Forest is doing everything possible to get its first win of the season.
It hasn’t been easy.
The Panthers have played each of their four games with major depletions caused by injuries and suspensions. Per coach Drew Hummel, at least 15 starters have missed at least one game. It’s left the coach searching for a way to stop the proverbial bleeding.
“It’s been real frustrating. In 23 years of coaching, I’ve never been hit like this,” Hummel said. “We can’t get any cohesion playing together. It’s been a revolving door.”
Carolina Forest has played two of its four games with six starters from the defensive front seven on the bench. It’s led to big deficits, thus forcing the Panthers to a one-dimensional, passing offense in the second halves of games. If there’s a bright spot to that, it’s the production of quarterback Will Brunson and receivers Kyle Belack and Zavier Jones.
Brunson – who last year set the school’s single-season passing mark when he threw for 2,321 yards – eclipsed his school-record single-game passing record in a loss to White Knoll last week. The junior finished with 343 yards against the Timberwolves.
On the season, Brunson has 1000 yards, 190 yards ahead of where he was through four games last season. Should he stay on that pace, Brunson would top his single-season record by more than 400 yards.
What Hummel has been impressed with the most, however, is that Brunson’s completion percentage has increased. The quarterback is up above 64 percent, even with teams knowing he’s throwing on most second-half downs.
His two primary targets have evolved along with him.
After senior tight end Ryan Yuracheck (knee) went down, Jones and Belack became Brunson’s go-to guys. Jones is leading the Grand Strand in receiving yards (398) while Belack is No. 2 (372).
Both players are well ahead of the pace to break the Carolina Forest single-season receiving mark of 884 yards.
Much of the players’ yardage during the first four games has come with starting center Trey Johnson on the bench. He returned Friday night against White Knoll, and Hummel said there was an immediately difference in the fluidity of the offense, specifically getting the ball into Brunson’s hands.
The Panthers will certainly need that Friday, when they head to Myrtle Beach (1-2). The Seahawks are 11-4 all time against Carolina Forest, and they haven’t lost to the Panthers since 2004. The eight matchups since then have all been decided by double digits.
“The series has been lopsided,” Hummel said. “Myrtle Beach has put some dadgum good players on the field the last few years. It’s been tough to match up, not just for us, but for a lot of teams they play.”
The Seahawks sandwiched a nice victory over West Florence between double-digit losses to Richmond County (N.C.) and South Florence.
Few would argue there’s a better football team on the Grand Strand than Socastee through Week 3.
The Braves (4-0) are coming off a 60-14 victory over Conway and have won their four games by an average of 30 points. If anything, it’s started to allow first-year coach Doug Illing to understand exactly what kind of team he has.
The coach said during the preseason that he was worried about his team being put up on a pedestal and how expectations would be tough to meet.
Now, he’s not shying away from them.
“I didn’t know what we’d have, to be honest with you,” Illing said. “You don’t know until you actually get into live play and play with other people. You can line up and play against each other, but you still don’t know what you’ve got.
“We’re going to keep building. We’re doing more and more each week. We’re getting better each week. The sky’s the limit with this bunch.”
Running backs Delano Walters and Kyle Smith and quarterback Hunter Renfrow are all among the top 10 players in the area in rushing yards, and a shot at all three topping the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season is not out of the realm of possibility.
However, what the Socastee defense has started to do is what people should take notice of.
After giving up 20 and 30 points to Carolina Forest and West Brunswick (N.C.), respectively, to start the season, the Braves have allowed just 20 points in the last two weeks combined against the Tigers and Lake City.
“Our defense is underrated,” Walters said after Friday’s win over Conway. “The only touchdowns they got were on two deep passes. Our run defense is, hands down, the No. 1 defense in the state. They’re underrated. Nobody gives them credit. They have to go out every Friday night and prove themselves. They’re getting better and better by the game.”
Socastee will have one more home game – against Lake View on Friday – before opening the Region VII-AAA slate against North Myrtle Beach on Oct. 4.
Web chat questions wanted
The fifth edition of the 2013 Grand Strand Weekly Web Chat with WBTW News 13 Sports Director Jeff Zell and The Sun News high schools reporter Ian Guerin will air at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The show will be live-streamed via MyrtleBeachOnline.com, and then archived for later viewing.
Zell and Guerin will discuss all of the Week 3 action while also previewing the top games for Week 4.
Fans wishing to submit questions to be answered on air can do so by sending them directly to Ian@IanGuerin.com.
Seahawk soccer tournament in works
Jason Himmelsbach is attempting to add another early-season high school soccer tournament to the area.
The Myrtle Beach boys soccer coach said last week he is aiming at 12-16 team event in March. The tournament would include boys and girls squads. He said it would likely be a two-day event, and games would be split between Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium, Ashley Booth Field and the adjacent practice field at the complex.
“If we can get a couple Charleston schools or a team from Columbia or maybe even an out-of-state school, it can get big two years down the road,” Himmelsbach said. “I’d rather start small and then get big.”
North Myrtle Beach has had success with its Michael B. Nash Memorial Tournament. Himmelsbach doesn’t want to compete with that event, which has been played for two full decades.
Playing later into the spring sports calendar will also allow out-of-state teams to play. Some surrounding states do not allow spring sports teams to play in February.
Basketball officials needed
The South Carolina High School League and the South Carolina Basketball Officials Association District 11 is in need of new officials for the upcoming hoops season.
The groups are willing to train new officials, but they are also looking for people with prior experience in other parts of the state or country. Referees will have an opportunity to work all levels based on experience.
For more information, interested parties can contact Jake Rosiek at 843-503-2600 or Jack Freeney at 843-314-3420. Official applications, meeting and training schedules and physical forms are also available at www.scboa11.com.