Just when Tyler Gore thought he’d spent everything for the North Myrtle Beach football program, the senior standout found there was still one last deposit to make.
Before leaving the field and boarding a bus back to Little River, Gore gave his gloves worn during his final high school game — a 34-17 loss to Berkeley — to a young Chiefs fan. It was the final act of a career that saw him meet personal and team goals, but unfortunately will end without the ultimate prize he and his teammates coveted so dearly.
As a result of losses by North Myrtle Beach and Carvers Bay this past week, another season of high school football on the Grand Strand has come and gone. While the Chiefs saw their season end in the Lowcountry, Carvers Bay miscues came back to haunt the team in a 15-0 loss to Bamberg-Ehrhardt.
Time flies when you’re having fun. To think we’re a week from the conclusion of another season is rather sobering.
While basketball and baseball hold a special place in the heart of most, nothing beats a Friday night under the lights.
No two gridiron campaigns are the same, but there are reasons the 2017 season will stick out more than most. Here’s a look at some of this year’s top stories:
Unflappable: No one will ever fill the shoes of Chuck Jordan at Conway High School.
Yet, Carlton Terry did his best to keep the Tiger train rolling, stepping in as interim coach to lead the Tigers to a 10-win season.
Terry was given the interim tag weeks before preseason drills began, this after Jordan was placed on administrative leave with pay due to an incident on school grounds. Despite being arrested and having assault charges dropped, Horry County Schools declined to allow him to coach. Though not on the sideline, he was rarely far from players’ minds and hearts.
A former Conway standout who played and coached under Jordan, Terry had a little to do with that.
For his ability to keep the team afloat despite troubling circumstances, Terry was named Palmetto Champions’ Class 5A Lower State Coach of the Year. In addition, the Tigers will send four players to all-star games — offensive linemen Raiqwon O’Neal and Gunner Britton to the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, while linebacker Jaylen Moody and offensive lineman Lucas Partin will play in the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives North-South Bowl.
It takes a village: Ask anyone on the North Strand, and they’d tell you North Myrtle Beach football is one of the best kept secrets around.
After going 12-1 and advancing to the Lower State semifinal round for a second straight year, it is safe to say the Chiefs are a secret no more.
North Myrtle Beach completed its first undefeated regular season in history with a 41-7 win over St. James in late October. In addition, it clinched its first outright region title and back-to-back 10-win seasons.
Not bad for a program that experienced consecutive winless campaigns earlier in the decade.
It was a feat celebrated by the entire community, which has fully put its support — and funds — toward the school’s athletic programs.
Chiefs football coach Matt Reel was named Region 7-4A Coach of the Year, while running back Kered Class earned the league’s player of the year award.
Class was also named to the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives North-South Bowl, where he will join teammate Kwame Livingston. Georgia State commit Tyler Gore also has one last game left to play, as he will represent the Chiefs in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
End of an era: While Conway coach Chuck Jordan wasn’t given the football equivalent of a final lap around the track, Carvers Bay head man Nate Thompson made the most of his.
The only football coach the school ever had, Thompson’s tenure ended on a sour note as the Bears fell 15-0 to Bamberg-Ehrhardt.
In 18 seasons at the school, Thompson’s teams were 155-68, winners of nearly 70 percent of their games. He also led Carvers Bay to a pair of state titles and three Lower State championships.
Thompson’s final game will be the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives North-South Bowl in Myrtle Beach, where he will coach a pair of Carvers Bay standouts — Dijon Goss and Emanuel Tatum.
Adding fuel to the flame: Who knew water could actually ignite a fire, rather than put it out?
Already an intense rivalry, the deployment of sprinklers prior to September’s game between Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach caused tensions to rise.
The result of routine maintenance being done to the North Myrtle Beach football stadium, the sprinklers first turned on while Myrtle Beach players prepared for the pivotal Region 7-4A contest. In response, the Seahawks crossed the 50-yard line to let their rivals from Little River know how they felt about the situation.
While North Myrtle Beach players did not get involved, several of its coaches did — going nose-to-nose with Myrtle Beach players and coaches.
As a result of the incident, both Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach suspended coaches involved, while a few Seahawks were forced to sit for a game due to their role.
North Myrtle Beach won the game, 24-19. But rest assured, this war is far from over.
A year for firsts: North Myrtle Beach wasn’t the only program to reach uncharted territory this past season.
Carolina Forest earned its first playoff win since 2004. It was also head coach Marc Morris’ first postseason victory at the school.
Green Sea Floyds also hosted its first playoff game in more than a decade, making the most of it with a victory over Scott’s Branch.
Socastee and Aynor each also ended playoff droughts by qualifying for the 2017 postseason.
Best game: North Myrtle Beach 24, Myrtle Beach 19 (Sept 28) — After running out to a 24-6 lead, the Chiefs withstood a furious Myrtle Beach rally in the fourth quarter to secure the win over their top rival.
Best performance: Noah Seaver, Aynor — The Blue Jacket running back rushed for 315 yards and seven touchdowns to lead Aynor to a 57-33 victory over Waccamaw.
Top passer: Lawson Cribb, Myrtle Beach — Threw for 2,369 yards and 18 touchdowns in his senior season under center for the Seahawks.
Leading rusher: Kered Class, North Myrtle Beach — Rushed for 1,464 yards and 16 touchdowns en route to being named a North-South all-star.
Top receiver: Devin Stamp, Socastee — Had more than 1,000 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns in his final season as a Brave.
Most touchdowns: Hunter Illing, Socastee — Finished senior season with 30 total touchdowns, 24 of which came through the air.
Top tacklers: Jaylen Moody, Conway; Andrew Wilson, Loris — Two of the area’s top defensive players each finished with 105 tackles on the season.
Most interceptions: Edward Tucker, Socastee — Came down with seven picks for the Braves this past season.
Most sacks: Jaquan Reed, Carvers Bay — Finished with 12 sacks for the Bears.
Five questions for next year
▪ How high will expectations be for Myrtle Beach?: Consecutive seasons coming to an end in shocking fashion, expect the Seahawks to be doubly motivated to right several wrongs. They’ll certainly have the weapons to do so, as quarterback Luke Doty leads a potent offensive attack while a number of its chess pieces on defense return.
▪ Will Conway remove Carlton Terry’s interim tag … or look elsewhere?: When Horry County Schools opted not to allow coach Chuck Jordan to resume his coaching duties at Conway, Terry was the obvious choice to lead the team — at least on an interim basis. After a 10-2 season, one would think that’d be enough to secure the permanent job. But as is with anything, who really knows how this will shake out?
▪ Can North Myrtle Beach continue recent momentum?: Over the past two seasons, North Myrtle Beach has gone 23-3 and made consecutive trips to the Lower State 4A semifinal round. Despite losing talented pieces, the Chiefs have cultivated a winning atmosphere and hunger to set the bar beyond the third round of the playoffs.
▪ Coaching moves?: Every single year, coaches move on for reasons ranging from wanting to spend more time with family, the opportunity for a high profile job or — putting it simply — they’re ready for a new start. Honestly, we should start getting answers to this sooner rather than later. One job is certainly opening soon (Carvers Bay), and dependent on a certain set of circumstances, a few others will too.
▪ Can St. James make the leap?: Next season, St. James will move up to Class 5A. This past season, the Sharks were winless in Region 7-4A. Now preparing to enter a league featuring Conway, Carolina Forest, Socastee, South Florence and West Florence, can they hold their own?