As Wayne Gray called Myrtle Beach's state football championship game on the radio Saturday night, he couldn't help but see the similarities between the team that took the field at Williams-Brice Stadium and the teams he quarterbacked to consecutive state championships in 1983-84.
The Seahawks' style of play has changed, just like the game itself, but Myrtle Beach has gotten back to its glory days of football with some of the same principles that built it into a state powerhouse in the early 1980s, when it won four state titles in five years.
With back-to-back appearances in the Class AAA state championship game, the Seahawks have returned to prominence through continuity, care, community support and a coaching staff that has managed to make football a priority for the school's athletes.
But it all starts with the staple of most successful endeavors: hard work.
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"What I see now, and in the years that I played and right before the years I played, is just the work ethic put into the game of football by the coaches and the players," Gray said. "There are some great athletes. [Quarterback] Everett Golson is as good as I've ever seen. But the work ethic that all of them put in, in terms of the spring and the summer, strength conditioning and weight training, and seven-on-seven passing leagues, it pays. You can see their success on and off the field, and in and out of the season."Continuity in the coaching staff and program led to both surges by the Seahawks.
The names of the coaches in the early 80s were Doug Shaw, Tom Langfitt and Leroy Rainbow. About as long as Shaw was the head coach of the Seahawks, Langfitt and Rainbow kept the philosophies of the varsity in line throughout the entire program.
The coaches in the 2000s are Scott Earley, Mickey Wilson and Kevin Kirksey, who was the B Team coach for several years before taking over the JV team this year. Though Earley is largely responsible for rebuilding the program in eight years as head coach, Wilson replaced him seamlessly this year after being promoted from offensive coordinator.
The varsity and JV teams were on the same pages in the '80s. Earley fed the varsity playbook further down the line through the B Team and even recreation leagues.
"Kids are learning terminology and formations and drills up through Pepper Geddings, early in youth leagues," said Myrtle Beach assistant athletics director Bubba Lewis, who won a state championship in the '80s as a Seahawk defensive back. "Back then just like right now all the coaches are together on Saturdays and Sundays getting ready for the games. They all have responsibilities Friday night. The varsity coaches are at the JV and B Team games, so they're all working together."
The Seahawks have built from within the program with a largely homegrown coaching staff. Though Wilson played at Conway, assistant coaches Kevin Colyer, Alex Rose, Wes Streater and Reggie Alston all attended Myrtle Beach.
The coaches have overcome inherent obstacles to maintaining a perennial contender at Myrtle Beach, other than the cyclical periods of athletes and talent that most programs have to endure.
"There is I think a double challenge in Myrtle Beach," Gray said. "In some respects we're a small town, in other respects we have this large resort destination and we're a much larger town, and there's so many competing interests for our youth and our teenagers. That makes it very challenging. But when you get these kids interested, I think they stay focused."
Friday night has become an event again in Myrtle Beach, and the Seahawks are beginning to make a Saturday night in early December an annual road show.
"Back in the 80s Friday night was a community event," Lewis said. "People came out and went to the games. And now it's back to being that. The stands are filled. Myrtle Beach people are out there wanting to see the kids play. It's become a community event again, and that is what's nice about it. To see our city pour out on Friday nights to see these boys play."
The Seahawks aren't likely to falter in 2010, with Golson and a bevy of talented players returning from this year's 13-2 team.
The dynasty has been rebuilt 25 years later.