Carvers Bay was in this position last year, too.
The Bears want to make sure the result is different.
After falling in the opening round of the Class AA, Division I playoffs as the top Lower State seed in 2012, Nate Thompson is confident he has his team’s full attention as it prepares for Baptist Hill.
“I think it does [make a difference], especially with the kids who are coming back who went through that particular situation,” Thompson said. “We’re 9-1, just like we were last year. We’re the No. 1 seed, just like we were last year. I think our kids have a little more focus this week.”
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The Bears will more than likely be ranked No. 2 in the statewide Class AA rankings when the polls come out Tuesday. The expectation level is there, but so, too, are the wins necessary to get to that point.
In its first 13 seasons, Carvers Bay had twice as many trips to the state championship game (four) as seasons in which it has missed the playoffs (two). The Bears eliminated any doubt of adding to that latter number early on this season.
Carvers Bay opened the year with victories over Johnsonville and St. John’s, a pair of teams seeded fourth and third, respectively, in the Bears’ Lower State bracket. Carvers Bay’s closest game in Region VII-AAA play was a 12-point win over rival Hemingway.
Had it not been for a Week 3 loss to Andrews, Carvers Bay would be entering the playoffs at 10-0.
“This team, I believe a lot of people didn’t think we’d back in this position,” Thompson said. “But these kids are resilient. We lost to Andrews, but they hung together.”
Should they find ways to continue to win, the Bears will have three home playoff games. They’ll have seeding in their favor, not to mention the respect of others around the state who continue to put the Bears’ into an exclusive list of favorites to win another state title.
“I’m really proud that we are in the position we are, the second-best team in the state,” Thompson said. “When we start at the beginning of the year, one of our goals was to be the best.
“This is part of what we’re supposed to be doing. This is where we’re supposed to be at. If you want to keep those rankings, you have to play each and every week.”
That includes, maybe more so this year, the first-round playoff game.
Home-field advantage stacks up
The numbers confirm that home-field advantage truly means something in the South Carolina High School League football playoffs.
Last fall, of the 64 first-round playoff games in the state’s seven playoff divisions, only 17 were won by the road teams. The biggest ratio of road team victories happened in Class AAAA, Division I and Class A, Division I, where half of the victories came from road teams.
In Class AAA, only three road teams were able to win in the 16 games and all of those came in the Upper State. (The Class AAA Lower State bracket actually did not have an upset throughout.)
Area teams Socastee, Myrtle Beach, Aynor and Carvers Bay will play first-round home games Friday. Loris will play at home next week after its first-round bye in the Class AA, Division I playoffs.
North Myrtle Beach and Waccamaw are on the road this week.
Web chat questions wanted
The next edition of the 2013 Grand Strand Football 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 10 action while also previewing the first round of the playoffs for the state’s lower three classes.
Fans wishing to submit questions for the duo to answer on air can do so by sending them directly to Ian@IanGuerin.com.
Waccamaw’s Heimberger commits to Mississippi State
Emily Heimberger has two more seasons of high school softball to impress college recruiters.
One program has already sold the Waccamaw senior.
Heimberger, a two-time Class AA All-State selection, verbally committed to Mississippi State over the weekend, more than a full year before she’ll be able to officially sign with the Bulldogs. The middle infielder was a key component in the Warriors’ run to the state-title series last spring.
“Emily is the best defensive player that I have ever coached,” Warriors coach Scott Streiffert said in a release. “Not only does she consistently make routine plays, but her instincts and athletic ability allow her to make plays that most other players can’t make.”
Heimberger led Waccamaw with a .453 batting average as a sophomore. She also piled up 58 runs and 38 stolen bases out of the lead-off spot. She is a three-year starter, and appears to be the next in a long line of Waccamaw players headed to the college ranks.
Most notably, former Warriors star Ashley Czechner is in her senior season at LSU.
If Heimberger and Mississippi State follow through on the scholarship, she’ll become the third recent Grand Strand player headed to the SEC, typically considered one of the nation’s top two softball conferences. In addition to Czechner, former Carolina Forest shortstop Marisa Runyon is a freshman at Alabama.