High School Football

Myrtle Beach defense clamps down when it counts

At first glance, the old adage "offense sells tickets, defense wins championships" doesn't seem to apply to the Myrtle Beach High football team.

After all, the Seahawks' prolific offense is averaging almost 45 points per game. With point production like that, who needs a defense, right?

Wrong. Often overlooked during the Seahawks' run to their second straight Class AAA state championship game is the defensive side of the equation.

Although heralded quarterback Everett Golson & Company have rolled up big numbers to put teams away early and pave a relatively easy path to face Clinton in Saturday's Class AAA state title game at Williams-Brice Stadium, the defense has held tough for four quarters and not allowed more than 13 points in any playoff game.

Theoretically speaking, the Seahawks' "Greatest Show on Turf" could have scored just two touchdowns in each of the last four games and they still would be Columbia-bound.

"I think our defense is underrated," said 6-foot-2, 192-pound senior linebacker/tight end Steven Cobb, the Seahawks' only two-way starter. "The offense does such a great job that a lot of times people don't notice the defense is doing a great job, too. But we look at it like it's all one team."

For the Seahawks' D, it all starts up front with a slightly under-sized but drastically underrated front four. Defensive end Tevin Hunt (6-1, 210) is the lone senior and the team leader in sacks with 13.

"We've been playing against bigger teams all year long," said Hunt, who had three sacks and forced and recovered a fumble in last week's 40-13 win over Marlboro County, "and we're still playing."

Cobb, a Shrine Bowl selection, is the unit's leader in tackles (63) and by example. His quiet, workmanlike demeanor inspires those around him to play hard, Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson said. But if you're looking for a player who walks the walk and talks the talk, it's senior defensive back Khiry Watts, a Shrine Bowl selection and the team's co-leader in interceptions with four.

"There are a lot of leaders on our defense, Cobb is certainly one of them and Watts is our vocal leader," Wilson said. "But the main thing about our defense is they all play together as one unit."

Perhaps the most telling statistic is how the defense has improved throughout the season. Through the first seven games, the Seahawks allowed an average of 22.7 points per game, including an embarrassing 65 to Class AAAA state finalist Byrnes, 27 to Class AA state finalist Dillon and 26 to Socastee.

Although the first half of the schedule may have featured stronger opponents, the latter half featured four playoff games. During the final seven games, Myrtle Beach has allowed only 8.4 points per contest and no more than 13 to any opponent. That's more than a two-touchdown per game improvement.

"I think a lot of it is experience," Cobb said. "The more we play together the smarter we get and the better we get. It's all about playing as a team."

So keep an eye on both sides of the ball in Saturday's state championship game. The offense may decide how many fans are in the stands, but the defense will likely determine which ones are cheering after the game.