About this time two years ago, Tyler Keane went into Myrtle Beach’s game against Carolina Forest late in the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks were beating up on their opponents, and coaches decided to get Keane – then a sophomore – some game reps. Keane wasn’t wearing green and gold.
He was playing for Carolina Forest.
Keane threw a couple incompletions and ran for a yard in that game, one of a handful times that season he saw live snaps. By January of 2011, though, Keane was no longer a Panther.
Friday night, he’ll be making his return to Carolina Forest as the starting quarterback at Myrtle Beach.
“It’s going to be different playing on the other sideline. But it should be fun,” said Keane, who took over the full-time starting duties with the Seahawks prior to this season. “You have to take it as any other game, watching the film and looking at all the coverages and prepare for all that. When the lights come on, it’s like they’re my opponent and not really my friends. After the game, off the field they’ll be my friends just like any other time.”
Specifically, Keane was talking about former teammates Harold Atkinson, Marvin Taylor, Trey Johnson and Charles Quillen – four of the most notable names on the Carolina Forest roster.
How different things may have been this season had Keane’s family stayed in the Carolina Forest district. Instead, they down-sized houses and moved closer to the beach.
It was a move that affected both teams, not to mention a young man now quarterbacking a squad once again ranked No. 1 in the state.
When St. James baseball coach Robbie Centracchio was told of a talented player transferring into his program last Spring, he braced himself for complaints.
Anders DeShields’ family moved to Murrells Inlet from Spartanburg mid-semester, and immediately, Centracchio heard accusations of recruiting. It got worse after DeShields started mowing down opposing hitters and batted .481.
He understood the concerns, as he put it, no matter how “baseless” they were. The Sharks have been one of the best teams in the state for three seasons, and it looked to outsiders as the rich getting richer.
Myrtle Beach football coach Mickey Wilson knows the sentiment. The Seahawks have won two state titles in the past four years and played for another. They haven’t lost a region game since Oct. 3, 2008 (a string of 19 straight).
“With the success we’ve been fortunate enough to have over the past five to 10 years, I’d like to think of it as we’re going to attract guys,” Wilson said. “If a family’s moving into our area and they have a football player, they’re going to ask ‘Hey, where’s the better football program at?’ They’re going to get the response of the Myrtle Beaches and the Conways and that type of thing.”
Thing is, when Keane headed to just east to Myrtle Beach, few football fans outside of Carolina Forest had heard of him. His stats at the varsity level during his sophomore season were limited.
Danny Daly, a year ahead of Keane in school, was already starting and expected to do so again as a senior.
Keane has said former Carolina Forest assistant coach Zach McQuigg had told him he’d have a chance to compete with Daly for the starting spot in 2011. However, even Carolina Forest coach Drew Hummel said from the get-go that Daly was going to have the majority of first-team reps in practice.
“That probably was what was going to going to happen,” Keane said. “That, or I could be playing a different position. I didn’t really go too much into it. If I was at Carolina Forest, I was told I was going to be fighting for a starting spot against Danny Daly. But if not, I probably would have played a different position.”
Daly, with the position all to himself, went on to lead the Panthers to a 7-4 record while throwing for 2,102 yards and 24 touchdowns last year. He was named All-Region VI-AAAA and went on to sign with NCAA Division-III Methodist.
Keane split time with C.J. Cooper at quarterback at Myrtle Beach. As a junior, Keane threw for 1,588 yards and 24 touchdowns.
In many ways, it added fuel to the fire, especially after Keane was made the full-time starter at Myrtle Beach during spring drills this year.
The 6-foot, 180-pound senior is playing the most prominent position at the most prominent Grand Strand program. If he was an offensive lineman at a different school, would the concerns from outsiders be there? It’s hard to tell, although there’s recent proof against it.
Former Andrews lineman Michael Mabry was one of just five area players who were named to the SCADA North-South All-Star Football game in 2010. When he was selected for the event, he had been a part of the Yellow Jackets’ football team for all of three months.
Before moving to Andrews, Mabry also started games for Loris (2009) and North Myrtle Beach (2008, 2007). By the time he moved to Andrews, Mabry was already receiving interest from several NCAA Division-I and Division-II schools. He eventually signed with The Citadel and is a back-up this year for the Bulldogs.
However, during his high-school days and his father moving twice in the span of one calendar year for professional reasons, there were few, if any, negative whispers.
That’s a luxury Keane and Myrtle Beach know they aren’t going to get.
The other side
It’s been almost two full years since Tyler Keane left Carolina Forest, and at first on Monday, Panthers coach Drew Hummel chose his words carefully.
He’s lost two players to Myrtle Beach in the last two years. Running back/defensive back Dajour Wilson – the younger brother of former Seahawks star Daquarius Wilson – also changed schools after last season.
“Those things happen. It is what it is. Do we as coaches like it? No, we don’t,” Hummel said. “If that’s what he wants to do, more power to him. Best of luck.”
It is there he says he’s done talking about the situation before re-starting unprompted.
Hummel, like most football coaches, is frustrated by players coming and going. Sometimes, a departure is more impactful than another. Sometimes it works in his favor; other times it doesn’t.
“Kids can pick up and go and do things,” Hummel said. “Conway’s lost some kids. North Myrtle Beach has lost some kids. We’ve also all gained some kids.”
It’s to the point where he admits he doesn’t even know how many players on his current roster started elsewhere. That’s where the South Carolina High School League comes in.
Before every semester, the SCHSL publishes a list of approved transfers for all athletics. The reasons for the transfers are not included, but the list is a mile long and divided up into six alphabetical sections.
For the record, three current Carolina Forest football players and plenty more from other sports are on the most recent SCHSL list.
Parents of student-athletes must file paperwork with the organization via their respective new school in order to be cleared. There has to be extenuating circumstances for a player to not be cleared, and often, that only happens when something simply doesn’t add up or a coach or administrator files a complaint. It’s a nasty process, to be sure, when a player’s transfer is appealed.
That didn’t happen with Keane (or Dajour Wilson), and if nothing else, it’s clear that Hummel and his team have moved on. Daly threw for all those yards last year, and this season, sophomore Will Brunson is leading the Grand Strand in passing through four games.
Return to Big Cat Stadium
Friday’s game won’t be the first time Keane has been inside Carolina Forest’s football stadium since he left.
In fact, Keane and a few of his Myrtle Beach teammates used their Week 0 off-time to watch the Panthers play Socastee. He sat on the Carolina Forest sideline and talked with fans of the team he used to play for.
“I root for them – it depends on who they’re playing,” Keane said. “If they’re playing someone from our region, I root for them. … If it’s Conway, I’ll root for them. If it’s an out-of-region opponent, I’ll root for them.”
Basically as long as Carolina Forest is not playing his current team.
With the Panthers players he calls friends, that’s not much of a surprise. He spent two years at Carolina Forest high school with those guys.
Friday, for obvious reasons, he’ll be hoping they lose. He’ll also play a huge role in whether or not Myrtle Beach (3-0) remains undefeated.
Keane is making the most of an offensive line that is still learning to play together. Still, he’s thrown for 398 yards and five scores already this season.
And he’s done it in a Seahawk uniform.
“This program has a great tradition,” he said. “The winning legacy here is something to be happy about.”