High School Football

How the break caused by Hurricane Florence has led to a Conway football resurgence

Conway Tigers senior quarterback DaQuinton Grady scrambles against the Socastee Braves earlier this month.
Conway Tigers senior quarterback DaQuinton Grady scrambles against the Socastee Braves earlier this month. jbell@thesunnews.com

Something is brewing in Conway.

The Tigers (2-4) have come back from the Hurricane Florence break with a different demeanor and have seen better results on the field.

Before the four-week break, the Tigers dropped four contests, falling to North Myrtle Beach 16-14, Nation Ford 28-17, Sumter 34-10 and Hartsville 35-0 to be outscored 113-41 in the early schedule.

In came Hurricane Florence to wash away the struggles and the Tigers have looked like a different team since returning to the gridiron.

Head coach Carlton Terry attributes his team’s success in its Region 6-5A contests to a bit of good luck and some early-season tests.

“Last year, we scrambled to get games because people wouldn’t play us, mostly because of our success we had the two years before,” he said. “So, (this year) we scheduled who would play us, and it wound up as a rigorous schedule where we played some of the top teams in (Class) 4A.”

Following their Week 4 loss to Hartsville, the Tigers were due to have a bye week and then play another top Class 4A team in Myrtle Beach in Week 5, but the hurricane wiped out that contest. Its Week 6 game against region foe West Florence will be played in Week 11 to close the regular season on the road.

Coming back from the time off, Conway quarterback DaQuinton Grady recovered from some nagging injuries and the Tigers were able to get on a roll.

“We hung in there with those tough teams with the exception of Sumter and Hartsville, when DaQuinton was hurt and didn’t play,” Terry said. “The hurricane gave us a chance to refocus, heal up and get back to what we do best. You never want a break like that in your season, but it helped us get a little bit of a reset on things.”

Since returning to action, Conway has picked up two region wins, beating Socastee and South Florence, with three more games to play. The Tigers host St. James this week, then end the year with road games against Carolina Forest and West Florence – two teams undefeated in region play.

While his team is playing well right now, Terry knows it will take a great effort to continue to pile up the wins late in the season.

“We can’t afford to go into any games thinking we’re going to win just by stepping on the field,” Terry said. “St. James has our full respect and focus this week. Then, Carolina Forest will get our full respect and focus. After that, West Florence will get our full respect and focus. We are not a team that can overlook anyone. St. James is a team that works hard and is hungry for a (first) win, like we were a couple of weeks ago. We’ve got to be ready for a tough matchup.”

Coming into the season, Terry expected his team to struggle to match the expectations of last year’s squad, which won 10 games and had a dominating defense.

This year, breaking in a new quarterback and a revamped offensive line, the Tigers have had to scratch and claw in every game.

“For most high school teams, the quarterback and offensive line determine how well you’re going to play on the field on offense,” he said. “Each week, our units have gotten better, and as a result, we’ve had more production on offense. When you lose four offensive linemen that can play college football and a quarterback that is making an impact on a college roster, you’re going to struggle to be at the same level. A lot of those guys hadn’t played meaningful snaps at the positions they’re in this year, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

As the Tigers prepare to host their final regular season home contest against the Sharks, Terry wants to see his team clean up its act and play a complete game.

“We’ve got to eliminate the stupid penalties and turnovers and play four quarters of football. That starts on the practice field, where we need to continue to get better,” he said. “All of our guys have to play on the same sheet of music for us to be successful.”

The tune in Conway sounds sweeter in Week 9 than it has all season long.