High School Football

Inside the intense Myrtle Beach-North Myrtle Beach high school football rivalry

North Myrtle Beach defensive end Kwame Livingston (50) celebrates a sack against rival Myrtle Beach during the Chiefs’ win over the Seahawks last season.
North Myrtle Beach defensive end Kwame Livingston (50) celebrates a sack against rival Myrtle Beach during the Chiefs’ win over the Seahawks last season. For The Sun News

For two schools separated by less than 20 miles, a rivalry seems almost inevitable. For Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach high schools, it’s about more than pride when they meet on the gridiron.

The City of North Myrtle Beach plays the part of little brother to the City of Myrtle Beach in the eyes of many vacationers and tourists across the country.

While Myrtle Beach boasts nearly 17 million visitors a year to its amusement parks, nightlife and beaches, North Myrtle Beach is seen as more of a sleepy town where families come to stay on vacation. Even in facilities, the City of Myrtle Beach pumps money into Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium, where the Seahawks make their nest, as a city facility.

North Myrtle Beach High School has the Hank Hester Sports Complex, which is a jewel for public schools, and a football field that occasionally has drainage issues.

While it’s not quite a case of the haves and have nots, the disparity between the two towns certainly adds another level of fuel to the fire when the teams hit the field. The Chiefs, ranked ninth in Class 4A, travel to No. 3 Myrtle Beach for a game at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Historically, Myrtle Beach has dominated North Myrtle Beach, winning 11 of the past 14 matchups. But peeling back the history a little bit reveals that North Myrtle Beach has been on the upswing for a half-decade, winning two of the last four matchups.

The Chiefs beat the Seahawks in 2006, and then Myrtle Beach ran off seven straight wins in the rivalry before a 2014 triumph by North Myrtle Beach. Including the 2013 contest, which Myrtle Beach won 30-28, the teams have played tight games with a scoring average of 27-23 in favor of Myrtle Beach over the past five years.

This season, Myrtle Beach has a perfect 6-0 record, while North Myrtle Beach sits at 5-2. In Region VI-4A, Myrtle Beach is 3-0 and North Myrtle Beach is 1-2, with the Seahawks wanting a win over their rival to set up a showdown with top-ranked Hartsville for the region crown.

Though it would be easy to do, Myrtle Beach isn’t looking ahead to the regular-season showdown with Hartsville and has its sights firmly set on a dangerous opponent in North Myrtle Beach.

“We take it one game at a time, one play at a time around here,” said Mickey Wilson, Myrtle Beach’s head coach. “It’s a rivalry game and anything can happen in a rivalry game. We went over to their place last year with a young team and didn’t play particularly well. We don’t want that to happen this year at our place.”

Last season, North Myrtle Beach finished the regular season undefeated, though there was some drama in the regular season finale against Myrtle Beach with sprinklers activating on the Myrtle Beach side of the field in the pregame. The North Myrtle Beach press box also played a Myrtle Beach pump-up song late in the game to rub in the win against its rival. Wilson and his staff haven’t forgotten.

“I think pregame with what went on last year and all of that is definitely on the minds of my players,” he said. “My job is to keep them in check and make sure they play the game the right way. There will be emotions, that’s going to happen no matter what with 16- and 17-year-olds, but as coaches we have to make sure our guys play a good, sound game.”

For North Myrtle Beach, playing spoiler on a potential region championship game next week and handing its rival its first loss of the season is plenty of motivation to come out strong, in addition to working to secure a playoff spot. With the game being played on Thursday due to the threat of poor weather on Friday, both teams are facing shortened practice weeks.

“The shortened week is tough, the biggest thing is our practice schedule basically moves up a day,” said Matt Reel, North Myrtle Beach’s head coach. “We just want to make sure our players are confident in the game plan and what they’re supposed to do on the field. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, we want to play our best game and our best football late in the season. Now’s the time where things need to click for us.”