High School Football

North Myrtle Beach, Socastee game has more meaning than usual Friday night

The last two seasons, the North Myrtle Beach-Socastee game couldn’t have been less sexy to the common fan.

The Chiefs entered the match-up 0-5 both years while Tim Renfrow’s Braves were 1-4. The appeal was limited to family and the closest friends.

This year?

Courtesy of two of the biggest turnarounds in recent history among area football teams, the Braves and North Myrtle Beach will play the most important game in Horry County Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Socastee. That alone is a testament to the rapid growth each team has undergone.

“It would just show what kind of kids we’ve got,” North Myrtle Beach coach Perry Woolbright said, before adding what a win Friday night would mean. “That would be big. You want to win the non-region games to start off, but you want to win the region. That shows that we can compete with the teams that matter so we can get into the playoffs.”

Even mentioning the playoffs to the Chiefs last season would have come with little more than a sarcastic laugh. They understood that getting one win was a struggle, let alone earning enough to qualify for the postseason.

The Braves made a late push to get in, and won their second playoff game in school history despite finishing with an overall losing record. Instead, this season, they enter Friday night’s game having already matched their 2011 win total.

“Just people knowing you – we go to a restaurant, me and my dad, and they say ‘Good job; keep on winning,’” Renfrow said. “They’ve heard we’re 5-0. It’s fun.”

Yeah, things are just a hair different.

Football push

Getting people jacked up at North Myrtle Beach isn’t real difficult.

When students were approached back in the spring to record a two-song, lip-synced music video, nearly the entire student body and faculty showed up. The result was YouTube clip that has garnered 17,000 views and counting.

So when Chiefs radio broadcaster Tyler Watkins came up with an idea prior to the season for various coaches, administrators and others to shave their heads if the team got to five wins, support was naturally high.

“Tyler, he does something like this and opens his mouth, he makes sure others get involved in it so he’s not the only one who goes down,” Watkins’ on-air co-host, Wayne White said.

Woolbright, a number of assistants, Watkins, White, Athletics Director Joe Quigley and 10-15 others will be going various degrees of bald at some point.

Some of those people admit they agreed because they weren’t real sure five wins could happen. That’s obviously changed now.

“It’s not an if,” White said. “It’s a when.”

Whether it’s Friday night, next week against Georgetown or some other point this season, odds are good that the clippers will be broken out. The group has even started soliciting $25 donations (to be given to the school’s booster club) for a swipe with the razor.

Much like the video and the bet, those are coming in at a respectable pace, too.

“Last May, when we made that video, I was surprised by how many kids wanted to participate,” Quigley said. “Ninety-nine percent of them participated and showed up with school colors. And that was before football started winning. Football, it’s keeping that fire burning.”

That’s not something lost at Socastee, either.

First-year Braves Athletics Director Dave Bennett took over the position in August knowing that some of his teams were better than others. His goal was to build them all up to region championship contenders.

However, he was well aware of the recent struggles – especially early in the year – with the football program. While he was the head coach at Coastal Carolina, his primary recruiting zone was Horry County.

In that role, he witnessed Socastee have more losing seasons than winning ones. This year, the Braves will guarantee a winning record with one more victory.

“It’s a part of it. It kicks off the whole season. Football gets everything started,” Bennett said. “But you’ve got volleyball doing great, cross country doing great, women’s tennis doing great. That’s where you want to be.”

Forced focus

Socastee coach Tim Renfrow is just fine with Friday night’s game meaning as much as it does.

If nothing else, it prevents the Braves from looking ahead to next week’s game at Myrtle Beach. If any team is going to stand in the Seahawks’ way, early returns point to that squad being the Braves.

If North Myrtle Beach was still struggling, the last two weeks of practice could have been much less sharp.

“Last year, they were 0-5 this time, and I’m sure our kids wanted to overlook them and not think they were very good,” Renfrow said. “But they’ve got a good football team [now]. How good are they? I don’t know. But they know how to win and they’re learning how to win.”

Same could be said for Socastee.

The team has continued its impressive end to 2011 right into this season. The Brave offense is averaging 40 points per game and is, as Woolbright put it, next to impossible to game plan for.

It’s led to a newfound confidence the Braves – like North Myrtle Beach – are more than happy to add into the repertoire.

“We believe in each other,” Hunter Renfrow said. “We know what we can do.”