Even without starting quarterback Drayton Arnold, Myrtle Beach proved it was the defending state champion for a reason.
The Seahawks used a strong performance from backup Jake Deskins and a trio of interceptions from senior Kyle Belack to jump out to an early lead over Hanahan and then hold on for a 46-34 victory in the Class AAA second-round playoff game at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.
Behind Deskins, who had been playing a backup tight end spot until Arnold went down last week, Myrtle Beach came out firing and never looked back.
“We’re going to do what we do,” coach Mickey Wilson said. “… We feel confident Jake can handle the playbook, whether it’s the running game or the passing game.”
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As Arnold’s status will be in limbo for as long as the Seahawks are alive – Wilson said “I hope so,” when asked if his starter would return this season – that non-vanilla playbook was in full effect.
Deskins completed eight of his first nine passes and finished the game with 16-of-22 for 221 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception. All that production came without him attempting a pass in the fourth quarter, when Myrtle Beach was able to use an 8-minute, run-only drive to drain more than enough clock to hold on to what was a three-score lead.
“I was kind of surprised that we moved the ball as well as we did,” Deskins said. “At the same time, our preparation this week was just great. Our coaching staff got us prepared.”
Deskins took the majority of snaps this week, outside of a few Rhino package plays from starting tailback Brandon Sinclair and some Wildcat formation work with Belack.
Sinclair did his part Friday, rushing for 187 yards and three scores. Belack’s impact was more diverse.
The senior, starting at corner because of Kelton Greene’s one-game suspension, picked off those three passes all in the first half and took one back for a touchdown. He also ran the ball twice for 21 yards and also caught five passes, two of which that also went for touchdowns.
“He’s one of those guys who you can put pretty much anywhere on the field and he’s going to make plays for you,” Wilson said. “He played tremendous. Coach [Reggie] Alston been begging all year to put him back in the secondary, and I wouldn’t let him do it.”
Hanahan scored its first 14 points off Myrtle Beach turnovers. The first, a recovered fumble off an end-around run, led to the Hawks’ 54-yard touchdown pass from Fagan to Corbin Heyward. Then, in the second quarter, Hanahan capitalized on a Deskins interception when Fagan connected with Samuel Denmark for a 30-yard strike.
That made the score 19-14 Myrtle Beach. That’s as close as the score would be the rest of the night.
If all that wasn’t enough, courtesy of Marlboro County’s win over Swansea, Myrtle Beach will also be at home for at least one more week. The Seahawks will have a rematch of the Marlboro County team they defeated in last year’s Lower State finals at Doug Shaw.
Next week’s game will serve as the final home contest of the year, regardless of how Myrtle Beach does against the Bulldogs or the result of the other Lower State semifinal between Berkeley and Hartsville.
That’s not to say the Seahawks can’t win a road game. After all, they did it twice a year ago.
“I think we’re competing for a title this year because we’re playing really well as a unit on offense and defense,” Deskins said. “There are some things we need to improve on [on both sides of the ball], but we’re playing well.”
MB - Brandon Sinclair 1 run (PAT blocked)
MB - Kyle Belack 38 INT return (Sean Huggins kick)
H - Corbin Heyward 54 rec from Walter Fagan (Shaun Brady kick)
MB - Belack 34 rec from Jake Deskins (PAT blocked)
H - Samuel Denmark 30 rec from Fagan (Brady kick)
MB - Malik Waring 9 rec from Deskins (Deskins to Waring)
MB - Sinclair 9 run (conv. failed)
MB - Belack 8 rec from Deskins (Huggins kick)
H - Vontre Howard 13 run (Brady kick)
MB - Sinclair 2 run (PAT blocked)
H - Greg Casselman 38 rec from Fagan (Brady kick)
H - Howard 16 run (PAT blocked)
H - Jerry Bailey 14-93; Vontre Howard 8-94; MB - Brandon Sinclair 35-187
H - Walter Fagan 13-26-3, 274 yards; MB - Jake Deskins 16-22-1, 221 yards
H - Saaehim Brooks 6-92; Corbin Heyward 1-54; Samuel Denmark 2-62; MB - Malik Warin 5-84; Kyle Belack 5-59