These are The Sun News’ top 10 high school football story lines for the 2019 season that kicks off next week:
1. Can the scoreboards keep up in Myrtle Beach, Carolina Forest and Green Sea Floyds?
Football has made a turn toward offense over the past decade and the Grand Strand will have plenty worth watching on Friday nights. Luke Doty will have to work with a retooled Myrtle Beach squad, but his playmaking alone puts the Seahawks’ in elite company. Carolina Forest has an electric quarterback in Mason Garcia, who can and will sling the ball all over the yard. Green Sea Floyds might be the strongest offensive unit on the Grand Strand, bringing back quarterback Bubba Elliott and running backs JaQuan Dixon and Anwain Graham to a juggernaut in Class A. Factor in the unknown at Socastee, the traditionally potent Aynor rushing attack and North Myrtle Beach’s string of strong play over the past few years and you’ve got the recipe for a thrilling fall.
2. What will it take for Myrtle Beach and Green Sea Floyds to repeat?
Winning a state title is the goal for all area teams, with two coming into the season having earned a championship last season. Myrtle Beach caught fire in the late season, powered by a dominant defense and Doty’s rushing abilities. Green Sea Floyds reached new heights by pummeling opponents early and often with the ground game. Does either team have the horses to repeat now that they wear the target in their respective classifications?
3. Is there a surprise team that can make a run to Columbia?
If you had Myrtle Beach, with a first-year starting quarterback last season, or Green Sea Floyds, a program that was on the rise but not a traditional power, winning a state title last season, you were probably in the minority. Does the Grand Strand have a team this season that can put it all together late in the season toward playoff greatness? Aynor finished last season strong, Conway has a strong defense coming back and Carolina Forest can make some noise with its offense. We’ll know a lot more come mid-November.
4. A wealth of talent will leave at season’s end
A pair of quarterbacks, Luke Doty at Myrtle Beach and Mason Garcia at Carolina Forest, are already committed to play at the next level, with Doty heading to South Carolina and Garcia applying an eye patch to become a Pirate at East Carolina. Perhaps the best defensive player on the Grand Strand is Conway’s Tonka Hemingway, who committed to South Carolina on Thursday after receiving a litany of offers from ACC, SEC and other Power 5 conferences? His final five schools included Duke, North Carolina, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest.
5. Socastee makes a change at head coach
Gone is standout all-everything athlete Kenney Solomon and last year’s head coach Doug Illing. Insert new coach Marty Jacobs and an offense built around QB Darius Lewis for the Braves, who are looking for a return trip to the Class 5A playoffs.
6. Who runs the gauntlet of Region VI-4A this year?
Last season, Hartsville found its way to top billing in the state’s toughest region, but fell to eventual state champion Myrtle Beach in the playoffs. Joining those two programs in the playoffs last season were Marlboro County, North Myrtle Beach and Wilson. Will the last team standing this season hoist a state championship trophy? Will the talented teams beat each other up like the SEC West is prone to do?
7. Year two for Jason Allen at Aynor
Leading your alma mater puts an extra helping of pressure on a coach, yet Jason Allen’s Aynor squad turned in an excellent 8-2 season to begin his head coaching career. With Noah Seaver graduated and gone, what will Allen do to duplicate or improve on last season’s performance?
8. Conway got off to a slow start in 2018, but rebounded to make the playoffs
A familiar name will be piloting the Tigers this season, as sophomore Carlton Terry takes over at quarterback. Can Conway get out to a faster start than it did a year ago, as it stumbled out of the gate to a 0-4 record in non-region games?
9. Can we play a full season, Mother Nature?
Much to the dismay of every coach on the Grand Strand, the weather was one of the top story lines a year ago, as hurricanes and flooding wiped out games, practice time and flipped the schedule on its head. While nothing is guaranteed this time of year, a full season of games would be a welcomed change from a year ago.
10. The chase for Toast of the Coast Player of the Year
Taking home the hardware a year ago in dominating fashion was Myrtle Beach quarterback Luke Doty – can he take home the title two years in a row? Pushing for the top billing are Conway’s Hemingway, Green Sea Floyds’ Dixon and Carolina Forest’s Garcia, but a dark horse candidate could easily swoop in to make some noise and earn the title of the best on the Grand Strand.