High School Football

Myrtle Beach Seahawks: A season to remember

Myrtle Beach looked destined to win the school's fifth state football championship in 2007, when the Seahawks started the year 12-0 and were ranked No. 1 in Class AAA for almost the entire season.

But injuries eventually dashed the program's title hopes, and the Seahawks lost in the Lower State semifinals for the third straight season. In 2008, however, the Seahawks stayed healthy and got lucky when it mattered most.

With a full complement of players willing to do whatever it took to bring the championship trophy back to the beach, the Seahawks won Horry County's first state football crown since 1984.

''I don't think there was any difference in what we did this year compared to last year or in the first year we were here,'' Seahawks coach Scott Earley said. ''When you get to the end, everybody has good players and both teams are good. It boils down to who can stay healthy and get lucky.''

The Seahawks only relied on luck once during their magical postseason run.

Locked in a dogfight with Marlboro County in the Lower State championship, the Seahawks were the beneficiary of an underthrown two-point conversion in double overtime.

Demazio Skelton's interception on that play - a Marlboro County receiver was open in the back of the end zone - handed Myrtle Beach a thrilling 51-50 win in what many have labeled the greatest game in county history.

Believing then that they could overcome any obstacle or any team, the Seahawks then jumped ahead of Chester 21-14 at halftime of the state title game and cruised to a 10-point win at Clemson's Memorial Stadium.

''The team we had last year was separated from this one by injuries,'' said Seahawks senior receiver Jamere Valentine, who said earlier in the season that the 2007 team would have won the state title had it stayed healthy.'' We had a lot of [injuries] and it kept us from going to the next step. This year, we were focused and lucky.''

The Seahawks stated their championship goals in preseason practice, but this team took on a different persona after their only loss of the year, a 14-13 decision at Lake City in Week 6.

After convincing wins over Carolina Forest and West Brunswick (N.C.) to start the year, Myrtle Beach needed clutch plays to beat Dillon, Hartsville and Conway in three straight weeks. Valentine caught a long touchdown from Everett Golson to salvage a win against Dillon, the eventual Class AA state champion, and Jordan Butler kicked winning field goals as time expired against Hartsville and Conway.

But Butler couldn't repeat his heroics at Lake City, missing the potential game-winning field goal in the waning seconds that capped a disappointing effort by the Seahawks.

''We took those kids over behind the buses, and I had never seen any team that mad or that hurt about losing a one-point game to a great team,'' Earley said. ''I said then it was the best thing that happened to us, because we didn't have to carry around the pressure of being undefeated.''

They realized they were able to make a mistake, and they didn't have to pay for it. They made their mind up not to lose anymore.

The Seahawks took out their frustrations on the rest of Region VII-AAA, winning their remaining league games by an average of 53 points.

Myrtle Beach cruised past Lakewood in the first round of the playoffs and was 24 hours from a second-round matchup with Airport when its mindset changed once again. Assistant coach Gregg Skipper was killed in a vehicle crash near his Conway home. The Seahawks voted to play and struggled to control their emotions in a 31-7 win the next day.

Skippers death refocused the Seahawks once again. They honored him with a wreath behind their bench at each game and wanted nothing more than to send him out with a state championship.

''I felt like coming into the year we were good enough to win [the state championship],'' assistant coach Jason Owens said. ''I think [Skipper's death] gave us that extra motivation. You don't want it. But when it comes, you cant deny it. It's a strong driving force to do something for a guy that meant a lot for these kids and these coaches.

The Seahawks dominated Crestwood the next week, clearing their Lower State semifinal hurdle and setting up a duel with Marlboro County in the state semifinals. In a game that took nearly three and a half hours to decide, Myrtle Beach earned the school's first state title game appearance in nearly a quarter-century.

Golson, who finished the year with 3,570 passing yards and 44 touchdowns, was phenomenal in the state championship against Chester, throwing for two first-half touchdowns and running the option to perfection. Buoyed by the strength of its defense, the Seahawks pulled away in the second half for a comfortable 31-21 win.

Myrtle Beach won its fifth state championship in football. It came in the same year that the Seahawks won the Class AAA state basketball championship. Many of the members of the basketball team were also on the winning football team.

''This one is a joy, man,'' said senior linebacker Brad Spivey, who plays both sports. ''With basketball, we [won] it with 12 players. With this one, we did it with like 60 people. This one is up there. This is one of the best days of my life.''