Luke Doty and the Myrtle Beach offense had to rely on their teammates on defense and special teams to keep them close to Greer in the first half on Friday.
With the ultimate prize in high school football at stake, one of South Carolina’s most talented quarterbacks and prolific offenses took matters into their own hands in the second half.
Doty and company sped up and heated up on a cool and overcast day at Williams-Brice Stadium, erupting for 27 second-half points to lead the Seahawks to a 37-21 win in the S.C. Class 4A state championship game.
“I don’t think [the jubilation] can be put into words, you know what I mean. I guess the one thing I can say is man, it’s amazing,” Doty said. “Just playing in this stadium, playing in this environment with my guys, and just coming back big and getting a win in this stadium, just to bring a trophy back home to Myrtle Beach means a lot to us. It’s very special.”
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The win gave Myrtle Beach (12-1) its eighth state title and first since 2013, and capped a trying season that included two canceled games and three weeks of inactivity because of Hurricane Florence and subsequent flooding, and an added week at the end of the regular season, when the Seahawks were drubbed 70-34 at the hands of top-ranked Hartsville.
“It’s been a crazy year,” said Seahawks head coach Mickey Wilson, who won his third state title in his 10th season leading the program. “We had the storm and missed 3 ½ weeks of the season, and we took a very tough loss to Hartsville in the last regular season game and lost the region (VI-4A) championship, so it’s been a little crazy. But our kids just handled adversity extremely well, and I know I’m a little biased but we’ve got the best coaching staff in the state of South Carolina.”
The loss to Hartsville could have been the beginning of the end of the Seahawks’ season, but they won three home playoff games to earn a return trip to Hartsville and avenged that loss on the road last week in the state semifinals.
“We had to learn how to come together when we were down,” senior defensive lineman Will Walton said. “So we all came together after the game, and all the seniors decided we’ve got to get it right, we’ve got to get the dream. So we went back in Lower State (playoffs) and turned it on.”
After being held to 86 yards passing on eight completions in the first half Friday, Doty threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another in the second half to lead the Seahawks’ offensive onslaught on the field he has committed to play his home games on in college.
In the second half, the junior completed 16 of 22 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns to senior Wyatt Roache for game totals of 24 completions in 35 attempts for 244 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. He also rushed for a second-half touchdown. Myrtle Beach ran 47 plays in the second half compared to 28 for Greer.
“We just came together and started moving the ball. That’s really what it comes down to,” Doty said. “We got some tempo going and got some good drives started early and finished them off. We went with a little bit of tempo and we were able to have some success with it.”
Myrtle Beach held Greer (13-2) to 238 yards of offense, including 51 yards on 21 carries by senior running back and Shrine Bowl selection Dre Williams, who entered the game with more than 2,000 rushing yards this season. The Seahawks had five sacks, including a total of 3.5 by senior linebackers Salim Sessions and Michael Brown, and four interceptions of Greer quarterback Matthew Huff by T.J. Auston, Austin Randall, Quamil Spells and Xavion Knox.
“We all knew [Williams] was an extraordinary player, but I feel like we have seen better,” Walton said. “So we came up with a game plan to gang tackle and we practiced that all week, and we just knew for the seniors it was our last time so it was win or go home. This is what we’ve been planning on doing since we were little.”
Myrtle Beach trailed 14-10 at halftime, and special teams helped the Seahawks stay close to the Yellow Jackets with a blocked punt for their TD and good kickoff return to set up their field goal that pulled them within four points just before halftime.
After Greer got on the board first on a 34-yard touchdown reception by Williams, the Seahawks tied the game when junior Xayvion Knox blocked a punt near the end zone and junior J.J. Dent recovered on the goal line.
“We hadn’t blocked a punt in a while, and we go after them a lot,” Wilson said. “So it was huge. We felt like on film we had a possibility of getting that done. That was a great job there to get us seven points and get us on the board.”
Prior to Dent’s TD, a Myrtle Beach punt pinned Greer at its own 15 and a sack shared by senior defensive end J.B. Favorite and Brown forced the punt attempt.
Greer took a 14-7 lead on a 21-yard touchdown reception by freshman receiver Jaleel Skinner in single coverage on a fade pattern to the left side of the end zone with just 47 seconds remaining in the first half.
A 21-yard field goal by Chad Toone with 4 seconds remaining in the first half pulled Myrtle Beach within four points. A 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct on Skinner for spiking the ball after his touchdown pushed the kickoff back 15 yards and a good return by Jermani Green set Myrtle Beach up at the Greer 45 with 41 seconds left in the half. A 37-yard reception by Green down the right sideline and 8-yard scramble to the 4 by Doty three plays later set up the field goal.
The Seahawks then took command in the second half, scoring three touchdowns over a span of four minutes in the third quarter on a Doty 5-yard run, Green 14-yard run and Roache 23-yard reception.
Skinner got his second receiving TD on a 66-yard pass before Roache capped the scoring on an 11-yard pass on a fourth-and-9 play early in the fourth quarter.
“I think we were pressing a little bit,” Wilson said. “Offensively, we weren’t having fun. You know we have to have fun and attack. We came in at halftime and the defense was playing great, they played great all night, and we talked about, ‘Hey, man, this is right there, you’ve got 24 minutes, let’s just have fun, keep attacking and get a win.’ ”
Myrtle Beach’s eighth state title came in its 11th championship game appearance, and they have often come in bunches.
The Seahawks first reached the Class AAA state championship game under coach Doug Shaw in 1975, losing to Clinton.
They reached the state title game five consecutive years under Shaw from 1980-84, winning four titles and finishing second in 1982, and reached three straight title games from 2008-10 under coach Scott Earley in one season and Wilson in two, sandwiching wins in 2008 and 2010 around a loss in 2009.
The Seahawks won their seventh title under Wilson in 2013.
“It’s great for our players and our coaches and our community,” Wilson said. “I’m just really, really proud to be a Seahawk right now.”
Greer 0 14 7 0 -- 21
Myrtle Beach 0 10 21 6 -- 37
Greer -- Dre Williams 34-yard pass from Matthew Huff (Edwin Sales kick)
MB -- J.J. blocked punt recovery in end zone (Chad Toone kick)
Greer -- Jaleel Skinner 21-yard pass from Huff (Sales kick)
MB -- Toone 21-yard field goal
MB -- Luke Doty 5-yard run (Toone kick)
MB -- Jermani Green 14-yard run (Toone kick)
MB -- Wyatt Roache 23-yard pass from Doty (Toone kick)
Greer -- Skinner 66-yard pass from Huff (Sales kick)
MB -- Roache 10-yard pass from Doty (kick failed)