The next signs of expansion for the area’s newest sporting event were announced Tuesday as the Derrick Law Firm Kickoff Classic – formerly the Surf and Turf Kickoff Classic – released the three teams that will join the field for the 2013 football games.
This year’s event – which had its new name announced Tuesday upon the sponsorship agreement – will include Myrtle Beach, Conway, Irmo and Northwestern and be played Aug. 25 at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium. In 2013, when the games will move to Labor Day weekend, the event will also include two Wilmington, N.C., schools and a program out of Raleigh, N.C., as well as previously announced Richmond County (N.C.).
The games will provide a de facto Battle of the Carolinas event, and it’s another form of growth for what organizer Mark Stafford believes will help the Kickoff Classic achieve its next goal.
“We really want to get a TV deal,” Stafford said. “We feel this is worthy of TV. … someone is going to want to see these games on a national level.”
The event has the makings of one that could become a staple of the early part of the football season. 151 Sports Marketing has a six-year deal in place with the City of Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach High School to stage the games.
And for the two area participants, playing bigger opponents from outside the Grand Strand will help everything from gate receipts to on-field preparation.
For Conway, the game could play a role in qualifying or seeding for the Class AAAA playoffs. For Myrtle Beach, the game will help replace the three-year series it had with state powerhouse Byrnes.
Conway will play Northwestern this year; the Seahawks will take on Irmo.
“We prefer to play bigger AAAA schools,” Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson said. “We kind of set that trend the last three, four years. I think it makes us better. You add Irmo to that mix and playing those guys the first five ballgames of the season – playing that AAAA schedule for us – it just makes us better come November.”
Three of the four 2013 matchups won’t be announced until after this season. Stafford said he wants to see how this season goes in order to properly match the four squads.
Myrtle Beach will play Richmond County on Aug. 30, 2013. Conway, Irmo and Northwestern will all play in the event again, as well as Wilmington programs New Hanover and Hoggard and Southeast (Raleigh).
Stafford had said previously he was hoping to draw attention from teams on the western side of North Carolina. However, Wilson said it could go beyond that, as well.
“I think we’ve got a great product here, and think it will grow,” Wilson said. “I’ve had people from Virginia and Tennessee call me and say ‘Hey, I’ve heard about this… and how can I get in.’
“At some point, I’d like to say we might have eight ballgames down here on the weekend.”
Putting on that type of football series would certainly help attract a television contract. Games in the last two weeks of August typically fair well as the NFL season has not started. Two years ago, the ESPN networks alone aired eight high school games in a three-day span.
The chances of this year’s games ending up on television are slim, but that doesn’t mean the matchups aren’t already drawing some significant interest. The players themselves have already started doing some research on each other.
“I’m looking forward to playing against Northwestern,” Conway quarterback Mykal Moody said. “I know they’ve got some great athletes up there. They breed good athletes.”
Moody getting back into shape
Moody said his broken collarbone, which he suffered in May during a skills camp, is almost completely healthy and he should be able to compete in the majority of Conway’s appearances in summer passing leagues.
“It wasn’t a bad break. It was light. But it’s back healed,” Moody said. “I play hard. I want to go out there and have fun. I guess when I get back in, I’ll come back full force.”
The Conway quarterback combined to run and throw for more than 3,000 yards as a junior. He also racked up 30 rushing touchdowns and another 17 through the air.
He’s put on another 10 pounds since last season ended, which Moody hopes will help him avoid some of the minor injuries he’s sustained, not to mention ones like the season-ending ankle sprain he suffered as a sophomore.
As he participates in more events over the summer, it’s realistic to think his list of college offers – which stands at four from NCAA Division I programs – could make another jump soon.
At least, that’s what his gut tells him.
“Oregon’s coming on hard,” he said. “Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee – there’s a lot of schools coming in the last couple weeks telling me they might be offering next week, the next couple weeks.”
Myrtle Beach offensive changes
The Seahawks are using summer passing leagues to re-tool an offense that lost plenty of talent from a season ago.
And the major shift comes at quarterback.
Instead of splitting reps between rising seniors Tyler Keane and C.J. Cooper, the latter has been moved to receiver. Wilson said it prevents one of the team’s best athletes from “standing next to me on the sidelines 50 percent of the time.”
Unlike Conway – which will open the season a week earlier at home against Georgetown – the Kickoff Classic will be the Seahawks’ first opportunity to fully unveil Keane as the full-time quarterback.
Last year, he and Cooper were close in all of their passing categories. However, it was apparent early on that Cooper was the better runner. He led the pass-first Seahawks in multiple rushing categories, including attempts (123), yards (354), touchdowns (five) and longest run from scrimmage (29 yards).
While Cooper will be primarily on the outside, he could see some time behind center or throwing the ball out of trick-play sets.
“It makes it unique, because he can go back and take snaps,” Wilson said. “He can run the ball from the shotgun. He can throw it. So there will be some neat things we can do with him with some packages.”