High School Football

Prep notebook: Myrtle Beach football receives state title rings, looks toward upcoming season

Mickey Wilson hopes last week’s ceremony for his football players carries a bit of excitement into spring practice.

Myrtle Beach, less than six months removed from its Class AAA state title, received championship rings during an assembly at the school Friday. And with spring drills opening for the Seahawks and the rest of S.C. programs this week, Wilson will take any bit of extra motivation he can get.

“That was an accident,” he said of the timing. “We had a new company do it this year, but it just worked out like that.

“We’ve been in this situation before. We’ve got some guys coming back. The negative side is coming off a championship season and complacency. We have to make sure our guys know 2013 is over. Getting those rings put the stamp on that.”

There will likely be several more reminders of the title season along the way, from pre-game announcements this fall to the brave action of actually wearing those rings in public. Combating all that may have started prior to this week, though.

In addition to the rings, the team was also able to celebrate via a trip to the South Carolina State House in March. Allowing the team to be properly acknowledged could help them move on, too.

But the Seahawks also took advantage of expanded South Carolina High School League offseason policy that allowed for increased non-contact work. Myrtle Beach used March and April to concentrate on position work up to three days per week.

“We feel like we’re a step ahead,” he said. “We were able to teach fundamentals by position.”

Schools who did that earlier could see quantifiable differences in the next month, especially during the 10 available full-pad practices. Between baseball, track and other spring sports, some coaches won’t have their full complement of returning players in the coming weeks.

At Socastee, coach Doug Illing said he would delay deciding on a spring game in lieu of the No. 2-ranked Braves baseball team and its playoff hopes.

Spring football story lines to watch:

• SOCASTEE QB SITUATION | The Braves are going to be re-entering Class AAAA in the fall, and they’ll be doing so without their most influential player of the last decade.

Hunter Renfrow will be graduating and heading to Clemson, leaving Illing to decide between returner Jordan Hodge or two younger players.

• NEW COACHES | With Robby Brown taking over at St. James and Marc Morris beginning his first spring practice at Carolina Forest, the next few weeks could be crucial jump-starts for 2014. Both coaches have said they intend to change up offensive schemes at least somewhat from what their predecessors did. Executing any potential changes are next to impossible in the few weeks of available August practice.

• COLLEGE RECRUITMENT | The breadth of spring drills fall with an evaluation period for NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision schools. That means college coaches can and likely will be on campuses. And with a handful of area rising juniors and seniors already having verbal offers, it stands to reason that a couple more could gain them before school lets out for the summer.

College signing

North Myrtle Beach linebacker Laquinn Bellamy’s standout senior season has led him to a spot on a college team.

On Tuesday, Bellamy will officially commit to NCAA Division-II Shepherd (W.Va.) during a signing ceremony at the school. As a senior, Bellamy earned Toast of the Coast Defensive Player of the Year honors after putting up 125 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, six sacks and two interceptions.

At Shepherd, Bellamy will join a familiar face in former Myrtle Beach linebacker Octavius Thomas. As a freshman with the Rams last fall, Thomas was second on the team in tackles (65) while also piling up 9.5 tackles for loss. He helped Shepherd to a 12-1 record.

Like Bellamy, Thomas was also considered by many college recruiters to be “too short” to play at the top level of college football. Now, there’s a chance the two could be starting alongside each other very soon.

Hodge selected as North-South coach

Socastee softball coach Steve Hodge has been named as one of the coaches for the North-South All-Star Softball series, which will be held in June.

The Braves finished fourth in Region VII-AAA before pulling off an upset of No. 1 Berkeley in the opening round of the playoffs last week. In 2013, Socastee won the region title.

Hodge will join fellow area coaches Jason Himmelsbach (Myrtle Beach soccer, North-South) and Ben Schoen (Waccamaw soccer, Clash of the Carolinas), who were previously named to those respective all-star coaching staffs.

All-Region VII-AAA softball

St. James third baseman Hannah Price was named the Region VII-AAA Player of the Year, and North Myrtle Beach’s James Graves was honored as the Region VII-AAA Coach of the Year.

Price, who hit .494 during the regular season, raked at an even higher average (.613) during region games. She also tallied seven home runs, 34 RBIs and 28 runs scored. In the process, she helped St. James to a third-place finish in the region.

Graves has led one of the more remarkable comebacks in recent history. North Myrtle Beach, which missed the playoffs in 2013 and had not won a region title since 2005, finished in first place this season and opened the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the District V playoffs Friday with a 7-0 win over Hilton Head. Graves, has led five teams in three states to region championships.

For the full All-Region VII-AAA softball team, visit the Prep Talk blog at MyrtleBeachOnline.com.

All-Region VI-AAAA softball

Conway placed four players on the All-Region VI-AAAA softball team, while Carolina Forest had three.

The region, which allows for an increased number of selections the better a team does, was led by South Florence pitcher and Region VI-AAAA Player of the Year Sierra Pare.

From Conway, shortstop Kady Edwards, pitcher Neci Hemingway, first baseman Brianna Van Deusen and outfielder Ashlyn Hardwick were selected.

Carolina Forest selections were catcher Marissa Nunes, outfielder Natalie Hardwick and pitcher Emily Merriam.

For the full All-Region VI-AAAA softball team, visit the Prep Talk blog at MyrtleBeachOnline.com.

Region chairs from other baseball and softball division are encouraged to send in their all-region teams to ian@ianguerin.com this week.

State Soccer Rankings

Five area boys and girls soccer teams were included in the most recent state rankings, released over the weekend.

The group was led by the Myrtle Beach boys, who remained No. 3 in Class AAA after a pair of wins over region rivals Socastee and St. James last week. The Seahawks (15-3-1) will play Georgetown (Tuesday) and North Myrtle Beach (Wednesday) in hopes of finishing up their season with an undefeated region record.

The Socastee boys also remained in the top 10 in Class AAA, as the Braves are No. 9 this week. Socastee can lock up the No. 2 seed in Region VII-AAA with a win or a St. James loss this week.

The Myrtle Beach girls were the only area Class AAA team included in that division’s rankings this week. The Seahawks came in at No. 13.

In Class AA, the Waccamaw boys (14-3) are also No. 3, while the Warrior girls are No. 6 in the split AA/A polls. The full rankings for all classes are available on the Prep Talk blog at MyrtleBeachOnline.com.

The state playoffs for all classes in girls soccer will begin Monday, with the boys playoffs in all classes starting the following day.