Blair Hardin lined up his North Myrtle Beach players and turned into a history teacher.
The first-year Chiefs coach started grilling his players – calling out some individually, even – about what the team had done in its first half century or so of varsity football.
“He asked us how many times had we won a region championship, how many times had we won a playoff game, how many times had we gone to the playoffs,” senior quarterback Kendrick Furness said. “We could count those on one hand.”
While North Myrtle Beach’s returning players were part of one of the program’s best seasons ever last year, Hardin was making a point: One great season will be forgotten quickly if the Chiefs drop off in 2014.
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But Hardin isn’t stopping at a nine-win season or a playoff victory. He wants more, and he wants it now.
The Chiefs will have to continue that rise up the ranks with a mix of players old and new. How they adjust to Hardin’s scheme changes, though, could be the difference.
He has instituted a triple-option offense that has Furness joined by a pair of tailbacks. He’ll have plenty of the same reads he did last season, and Hardin said running the system out of the shotgun should help the team keep a 50-50 balance with the rush and pass.
That’s probably a good idea, given Furness threw for nearly 1,800 yards and 19 touchdowns last season and will have plenty of weapons on the outside.
Next to Furness in the backfield will be a combination of Willie Gause, Treshon Cox and Keyshawn Moore. They’ll have to make up the ground lost by the graduations of Delonzo Williams and Laquinn Bellamy.
While all that progresses, though, Hardin has the luxury of an above-average defense with some of its best pieces back in uniform. The Chiefs gave up just 15 points per game last year and pitched three shutouts en route to a third-place finish in Region VII-AAA.
Moore, also the team’s starting middle linebacker, had 149 tackles and 23 tackles for loss as a junior. Safety Colby Gore is a difference-maker, and nose tackle Raeshon Diggs can clog up the middle of the line.
The hope is that all that comes together by the time region play begins in October. The Chiefs were a Week 10 loss away from a home playoff game. They went on the road and pulled off an upset of Orangeburg-Wilkinson in the opening round.
But Hardin doesn’t expect to stop there. He wants more.
“Where do we go from that?” Hardin said. “There hasn’t been a consistent tradition over the past 50 years. Our goal is to continue a strong tradition for the next 50 years to be one of the elite AAA teams.”