One play often makes the difference between winning and losing a football game at the high school level.
That was certainly the case Thursday.
Myrtle Beach High won the Carolina Panthers' 7-on-7 championship, beating Spartanburg High in a sudden-death overtime system that rewarded the team that completed the furthest pass in one play. After Myrtle Beach completed an underneath pass, its defense forced Spartanburg into an incompletion.
"[Winning the championship] is a shot in the arm," coach Mickey Wilson said. "It gives us some momentum going into the summer. But at the same time, it's not Friday night. We know we've still got to get better."
The Seahawks, who finished 13-2 last season, will represent the Carolinas in the NFL's national high school 7-on-7 championship at Tampa in July. Quarterback Everett Golson said the experience is a good tuneup for the upcoming season.
"Coach tells us all the time, 'This right here doesn't mean nothing,' " Golson said. "This helps out the secondary, quarterbacks and receivers. But the real game is all about blocking and tackling. We want to be successful in the regular season."
The title game came down to Myrtle Beach and Spartanburg, and it took overtime for the Seahawks to win the championship.
Among the notable players at the camp were Myrtle Beach's Golson (committed to North Carolina) and receiver Donte Sumpter (East Carolina), Chester High quarterback Tony McNeal (Clemson) and Harnett Central quarterback Brian Taylor (offers from North Carolina and Clemson).
"To me, this is the best of the best out here," Golson said. "I haven't seen a quarterback yet who is lacking in anything. Most of these quarterbacks have great arms and make great reads. I'm just trying to be one of them."
The 7-on-7 tournament was played on the Carolina Panthers practice fields, a place Carolina rookies have gotten to know well during organized team activities the past four weeks.
But instead of more practice, Panthers in attendance got to cheer on the high school players.
"I was these guys' age just a few years ago back in California," quarterback Jimmy Clausen said as he watched the championship. "It's good to be on the other side of it."
Some Panthers players stayed throughout the five hours of competition.
Defensive end/linebacker Eric Norwood was first at the facility. The South Carolina native was rooting hard for his state's teams.
Receivers Armanti Edwards and Brandon LaFell, quarterback Tony Pike and safety Jordan Pugh arrived around lunch time.
Pike, a former standout high school player in Ohio, is no stranger to top-level high school football. He said the 7-on-7 brought back great memories.
"You almost forget what high school was like," said Pike, who played the past few seasons at the University of Cincinnati. "Then you come out here and see the intensity. It's just a 7-on-7 tournament, but everybody is competing and everybody wants to win.
"Just to see that passion that you remember in high school and bring back those Friday night lights days feels really good."
Butler, which finished 15-0 last season, failed to crack the top eight of the 12-team field in the 7-on-7 tournament.
But Butler High linebacker Kris Frost said it was a thrill to play in front of professional players.
"We're all honored to be here, and we're very thankful for what the Carolina Panthers have done for us," Frost said. "We've got the skyline in the background, we're playing right by the stadium. This is really great."