High School Football

Under construction: Youth, tough schedule forcing Myrtle Beach to learn on the fly

Senior quarterback Lawson Cribb is back to lead a talented Myrtle Beach offense.
Senior quarterback Lawson Cribb is back to lead a talented Myrtle Beach offense. jlee@thesunnews

Admittedly, Mickey Wilson sometimes finds it hard not to peer over his shoulder at construction work taking place at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.

Renovations have turned the facility into a hard-hat zone, a new playing surface, locker rooms, press box and scoreboard among its many enhancements.

“You see that scoreboard, man? It’s going to be impressive once it gets to working,” Wilson said. “It really makes the one we had before look small.”

As crews look to complete work before the Seahawks’ home debut on Aug. 31, the expected completion date for this year’s team may not arrive until later — though they’ll be expected to deliver much sooner.

“The biggest thing about it is we’re so inexperienced, especially on defense,” he said. “(Early summer practices) are important for getting reps and gaining experience to get better. The kids are practicing hard and doing a good job communicating and talking to each other. We are already seeing some of that leadership show through.”

Last season, a veteran defense held the fort until a young offense gained its footing. Inevitably, it led to the Seahawks going 9-2, though an early playoff departure left a bad taste in the their mouths.

Roles could not be more reversed this year, the young pups on the offensive side of the ball now full grown dogs.

“Last year, to start the season we were kind of pulling our hair out as coaches because we were so young on offense,” Wilson said. “This year, we are kind of fortunate in that we have so much experience. Having such experience at the skill positions really helps.”

Quarterback Lawson Cribb is back under center for Myrtle Beach this after throwing for 2,717 yards and 22 touchdowns. Joining him in the backfield is sophomore Jermani Green, who in his debut season led the team in rushing (519 yards) while finishing third in receptions (39) and receiving yards (404).

Following a solid sophomore season, wideout Daron Finkley, Wilson believes, has what it takes to become the latest in a long line of dominant receivers to play for the Seahawks. Last year, Finkley caught 58 passes for 717 yards and four touchdowns.

Chunk Grissett is also expected to become more of a focal point in the passing game after catching 22 passes for 291 yards and three scores. Also expected to see time at wide receiver for Myrtle Beach is sophomore Luke Doty — who already has offers from Coastal Carolina, Charlotte and North Carolina to play quarterback.

If there is a question mark for the Seahawks on offense, it is found in the trenches. Max Graham and Evan Jumper are the lone returnees for the team along the offensive line.

“This time of year (the offensive line) is always a bit behind because they have to work as a unit,” Wilson said. “Having (Graham and Jumper) back, it is going to take them and the other three guys getting on the same page.”

Though it will likely take less time for the Myrtle Beach offense to get in sync, patience may be necessary before its defense rounds into its true form.

Wilson expects the defensive line to be a strength as it returns three players who greatly contributed to a unit that allowed less than 20 points per contest last season.

After notching 47 total tackles a season ago, Daniel Mitchell will anchor the Seahawks’ defensive front. He will be joined by J.B. Favorite and Will Walton, who both saw extensive playing time last year.

There is no bigger question for the squad than at the linebacker position, where it must replace the likes of Chase Brill, Keyonte Sessions and Dlanor Tilton. Also with its own share of questions is the team’s defensive backfield, where Jayce Allen will provide a veteran presence.

With an early season schedule the includes perennial powerhouses in Byrnes and Charlotte Christian (N.C.), as well as a pair of top area programs in Carolina Forest and Conway, the unit will have to learn on the go.

“Playing a tough schedule, guys are really going to have to step up for us,” Wilson said. “We have some guys on defense that were some backup guys, who saw some time but may not have been starters. We’re going to need them to step up and be leaders, and I believe they are in the process of doing that.”

Joe L. Hughes II: 843-444-1702, @JoeLHughesII

Myrtle Beach Seahawks

Coach: Mickey Wilson (88-20 in six years)

2016 record: 9-2, 3-1 Region VII-4A (lost to A.C. Flora in first round of Class 4A playoffs)

Key players: Lawson Cribb (Sr., QB), Jermani Green (So., RB), Chunk Grissett (Jr., WR), Daron Finkley (Jr., WR), Daniel Mitchell (Sr., DL), Luke Doty (So., ATH)

The word: A promising season ended with a thud for Myrtle Beach, with losses in its season finale at Marlboro County and the first round of the Class 4A playoffs against A.C. Flora. As always, the Seahawks are loaded at skill positions, with quarterback Lawson Cribb and a pair of solid wideouts in Chunk Grissett and Daron Finkley who will receive the large share of targets. However, the team must swiftly make up ground on the defensive side of the ball, where a bevy of its top contributors from last season were lost to graduation.