The sound of dribbling basketballs now echo through the halls of schools throughout the Palmetto State, a clear signal a new hoops season is just over the horizon.
But for two area football programs, they aren’t ready to devote full attention toward knocking down free throws or perfecting their crossover dribble.
“It’s still football season here .... we still have a few weeks left of this,” said several North Myrtle Beach football players following practice on Monday. “We’re trying to be one of the last standing. We’re not ready to go home.”
Among teams in Horry and Georgetown counties, the Chiefs (12-0) and Carvers Bay (11-1) stand alone as the only area squads remaining in postseason play.
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North Myrtle Beach travels to Berkeley on Friday night in the Lower State 4A semifinal round, while the Bears play host to Bamberg-Ehrhardt meet for a berth in the Lower State 2A final.
Carvers Bay is seeking to advance past the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2013 — also the last time the Bears played for a championship. As for North Myrtle Beach, it seeks its first berth in a Lower State final in program history.
“Hey men, this is a team with plenty history. We’re heading in there looking to write some history of our own,” said North Myrtle Beach football coach Matt Reel as the team broke practice on Monday. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime. Go out there and seize it.”
Neither is a stranger to this round of play, each advancing to this stage last season. Memory of those games tends to leave a bad taste in their mouths, though.
“What I took from that (loss to Chapin in Lower State 4A semifinal last year) was the feeling of hopelessness,” said North Myrtle Beach senior defensive lineman Kwame Livingston. “That feeling of looking around and feeling like I’m doing all I can … and we’re doing all we can and not succeeding. I just want to take all of that and remember till Friday.”
Said Reel: “It’s a different year, and this year we’re a year older. At times last year, I don’t think we were confident in ourselves. We had never been there before, we didn’t know how to handle it. … This year, knock on wood our guys are mentally better prepared to handle the big lights and big game situations and I expect our guys to play a great football game Friday night.”
Reel will depend on leaders such as Shrine Bowler Tyler Gore and Livingston — a North-South all-star in his own right — to help the Chiefs get over the hump. This especially holds true if recently-named Region 7-4A Player of the Year Kered Class isn’t 100 percent, this after injuring his hamstring last week against Crestwood.
“We’ve worked hard over the spring and the summer,” Gore said. “Our main goal is to make sure we don’t leave with that same feeling again.”
While North Myrtle Beach felt it wasn’t adequately prepared mentally for the task a season ago, a litany of injuries hindered Carvers Bay in its pursuit of a championship last year.
This time around, all hands are on deck for the Bears, something football coach Nate Thompson hopes makes a difference.
“Last year, our quarterback (Janaz Sumpter) went down, and one of our running backs went down,” he said. “Two of our best weapons were sitting on the sideline. This year, we’ll likely have both of them. But the main thing is, these guys have been (to the third round of the playoffs) before and really want to make it past this point. To them, experience makes so much of a difference.”
North Myrtle Beach (12-0) at Berkeley (11-1) | Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Radio/online: WRNN-FM 99.5; NMBChiefs.com
Of note: This is the first meeting between the programs. Both come in on quite the roll, North Myrtle Beach undefeated and Berkeley having won 11 straight after a 17-10 loss to Daniel in its season opener. North Myrtle Beach has scored 40 points or more in eight of its last nine games. Kered Class has been the main catalyst, rushing for 1,506 yards and 16 touchdowns. Berkeley counters with a talented runner of its own, as Keyshawn Wicks comes into Friday night with 1,773 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Stags really have created separation in the second period, outscoring opponents by a score of 128-60. Sticking close — especially on the road — during the stanza could bode well for the Chiefs.
Pick: North Myrtle Beach
Bamberg-Ehrhardt (11-1) at Carvers Bay (11-1) | Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Of note: It’s almost unfair one of these teams will go home in the third round. Both have been quite impressive this season — Carvers Bay with 40 points or more in eight straight games, while Bamberg-Ehrhardt hasn’t yielded more than 21 in any game this year. Toronto King has rushed for 1,291 yards and 23 touchdowns this season, while fellow running back Tyrik Reed has 14 total trips to the end zone. Jaquan Reed leads Carvers Bay with 69 tackles and 12 sacks. He and the Bears’ defensive front will have their hands full against a physical Red Raiders front that gets stronger as games go along.
Pick: Carvers Bay
SCHSL PLAYOFF PICKS
Gaffney (8-4) at Hillcrest (10-2): It’s tough to beat a team twice in a season, but this Gaffney team is on a mission.
Greenwood (9-2) at Dorman (10-2): Does Greenwood have a little magic left in the bag? It’ll need it in Roebuck Friday night when the Cavs go for their 11th win in a row.
Spring Valley (11-1) at Fort Dorchester (12-0): Spring Valley has the tools to make Fort Dorchester sweat, but it doesn’t have Dakereon Joyner.
Pick: Fort Dorchester
Summerville (9-2) at Dutch Fork (11-1): Dutch Fork has scored 40 points or more in all but three of its games this season. Summerville’s defense has played well of late, yielding 10 points or less three of its last four games. Something has to give.
Pick: Dutch Fork
Greenville (11-1) at Greer (11-1): Possibly the best game of the weekend. Both are complete teams with so many ways to beat you. This game is as good as a coin flip.
Eastside (11-1) at South Pointe (12-0): This playoff run for Eastside has been magical. Unfortunately, it’s stepping into the ring with a juggernaut.
Pick: South Pointe
Lower Richland (7-5) at Hartsville (11-1): One thing is for sure, and that is Lower Richland can’t get down 24 points against Hartsville and expect to catch up. It’s hard enough to win in Kellytown Stadium as is.
Palmetto (9-3) at Chapman (12-0): Chapman hasn’t scored less than 35 points all season. Don’t expect Palmetto to stop this “pain train.”
Emerald (9-3) at Fairfield Central (9-3): Fairfield Central got past one hurdle last week in rival Newberry. Can the Griffins bring their best for a second week in a row against a peaking Emerald squad? I think so.
Pick: Fairfield Central
Dillon (12-0) at Gilbert (12-0): Arguably the state’s showcase game on Friday night. Dillon’s defense will show up, but can its offense find room to run in a stifling Gilbert front?
Brookland-Cayce (8-4) at Timberland (9-3): It’s a long drive to St. Stephen. Brookland-Cayce hopes not to make the trip home any longer as it takes on a physical Timberland squad.
Cheraw (9-3) at Abbeville (11-1): Few teams have offered anything in the way of resistance for Abbeville. Cheraw has the talent to do so … question is, will it? It’ll be a tough task, for sure.
Lee Central (11-1) at Saluda (11-1): Should be a hard-hitting affair between two teams committed to running the football. Which will bend in this battle of wills?
Pick: Lee Central
Batesburg-Leesville (7-5) at Barnwell (11-1): Must be November, when Batesburg-Leesville goes on another late season run. These teams are meeting for the fourth time in two season. Guess the main question is, can this one live up to the three classics preceding it?
Lamar (11-0) at Williston-Elko (9-2): Williston-Elko is certainly battle tested. But Lamar is on a mission to right a wrong from a season ago.
Lewisville (10-2) at Ridge Spring-Monetta (8-3): Since a loss to Williston-Elko in late September, Ridge Spring-Monetta has ceded a mere 14 points. Lewisville looks to make the immovable object bend a little with its potent offensive attack.
Lake View (9-2) at Baptist Hill (8-1): Until it is knocked off, Lake View is still the reigning, defending Class A champion. Baptist Hill’s balanced offense should give it a stern test, though.
Pick: Lake View
C.E. Murray (9-2) at Hemingway (11-0): These two teams played a high-scoring affair earlier this season, won by Hemingway. Another could be in the offing, with the Tigers’ speed winning out in the end.