High School Football

Smith leads St. James to win, playoff berth

St. James quarterback Chase Smith was far from perfect in Friday night's 28-14 victory over North Myrtle Beach, but he was when he had to be.

Smith completed all five of his passes in the second half, the last one a 34-yard touchdown game-winning strike to Caleb Duggin with just over 5 minutes remaining to cap a comeback victory over the winless Chiefs (0-9 overall, 0-4 Region VII-AAA).

The Sharks (2-7, 2-2) assured themselves a spot in the playoffs but it didn't come easy. They trailed 14-7 at halftime before Smith went 5 for 5 for 87 yards and they scored three unanswered touchdowns in the second half.

Smith lobbed a long ball in the end zone to Duggin, who was double covered but made a leaping grab to give the Sharks their first lead of the night. Tyus Goodman tacked on a 2-yard touchdown in the closing minutes to secure the victory.

"We were pretty much running the ball on them in the second half and that set up some easy passes for me," said Smith, who finished the game 10 for 15 for 138 yards and two TDs. "We just never lost sight of our goal, and that was to win the game and go to the playoffs."

For one fleeting moment, the Chiefs appeared poised to capture their first victory of the season. After picking off a pass from Smith on the Sharks' opening series, North Myrtle Beach pulled out a trick play on its first snap and caught St. James off guard.

Timmy Bellamy, who usually plays quarterback for the Chiefs, lined up at receiver and took a lateral sideline pass from Clint Cole.

Bellamy stepped back and threw a strike to a wide-open Temarrick Hemingway for a 40-yard touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead.

The Sharks bounced right back following a muffed punt by North Myrtle Beach deep in its own territory. Smith tossed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Duggin and the score was tied at 7 just 3 1/2 minutes into the contest.

But the Chiefs let the Sharks know they were in for a long night by putting together a long touchdown drive just before the half. Cole's pass to Hemingway was tipped in the end zone but Hemingway kept his eye on the ball and hauled in the 5-yard TD catch for a 14-7 halftime lead.

St. James answered on its first possession of the second half with a long scoring drive. Garrett Denson broke free for a 28-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14.

After North Myrtle Beach's Zack Crowl missed a potential go-ahead field goal from 49 yards out, the Sharks took control.

After repeatedly running the ball up the middle and moving the chains, Smith hit Duggin on a couple of slip screens to set up the game-winner.

"Our guys just kept playing their hearts out no matter what the scoreboard said," St. James coach Billy Hurston said. "We haven't had a lot of success in the past so it was just a matter of our guys finally believing in themselves."

As has been their M.O. this season, the Chiefs also self-destructed in the second half. They committed nine penalties for 90 yards in the second half alone, finishing the game with 12 flags for 120 yards.

Both teams close out the regular season next week against their big rivals - the Chiefs face Myrtle Beach and St. James takes on Socastee.