High School Football

‘A unique group’: Local high school football coaches aiding each other in trying times

Beginning Friday night at the CNB Kickoff Classic, high school football coaches from Horry and Georgetown counties will do their best to beat up on each other’s teams.

That’s what football coaches do.

But what’s not inherent in the job is cooperating and being there for their fellow coaches in the area, which has helped build the programs collectively and was no more evident than this year when the support has been especially beneficial.

Coaches have leaned on their foes/cronies in the lead-up to the season as they have dealt with their own array of issues.

Among them, Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson missed Tuesday’s press conference because of a death in his immediate family, and coaches offered their public condolences and support Tuesday.

Waccamaw coach Shane Fidler and his program have dealt with a pair of player suicides this year, both the sons of Waccamaw football staff members.

Green Sea Floyds coach Donnie Kiefer asked those in attendance Tuesday to pray for a GSF student who is deep in a battle with leukemia.

“There’s a lot of good coaching that goes on, and I think each and every week each of us get excited about being able to compete against each other, then in the offseason we’ll talk and we’ll compare notes, we do stay in touch with each other,” Loris coach Jamie Snider said. “I think that’s what makes this a unique group, and I think that’s what makes this event a unique event.”

The CNB Kickoff Classic jamboree is being held at the recently-expanded Brooks Stadium – the first time in more than a decade it is being held on the Coastal Carolina campus. Tuesday’s press conference was held in the CCU field house.

“I can tell each one of you coaches it’s going to be a great experience for your team, coming out here and playing on this field,” said Carolina Forest coach Marc Morris, whose team played a playoff game in the stadium last season. “Having this thing here this year, I mean it’s something we need to do each year in my opinion. Showcasing this beautiful place and honoring our high school athletics and our kids here, this is a great opportunity for everybody.”

The 10 coaches in attendance Tuesday shed light on their teams for this upcoming season, which begins as early as next Friday for some teams.

Aynor: Coming off a 7-1 regular season and 8-2 overall record including a playoff win, head coach Jason Allen said the Blue Jackets return some key starters including three linebackers and two defensive backs on defense, and several offensive linemen led by Colby Todd (6-foot-4, 325 pounds). Senior Andrew Brown is replacing three-year starting QB Spencer Sarvis.

Allen said Aynor has had its best offseason in the weight room and senior fullback and linebacker Drew Shelley (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) embodies the toughness of the team. “He’s one of those kids who love to lift weights,” Allen said. “He just wants more. . . . He said coach, I wish there were eight days in a week because I want to lift more.”

Carolina Forest: Morris had a rare problem this year. He had 187 players initially try out for football in the high school and had to eventually cut about 30 players, including eight who hadn’t missed a day of team activities since early February, to get down to the 120 players on varsity and JV combined he had uniforms for.

The Panthers return nine offensive and seven defensive starters and have East Carolina commitment Mason Garcia at QB, so the team will be experienced with a few younger players mixed in. “We’re real young in some spots but a lot of kids do have some varsity experience,” Morris said.

Conway: The Tigers are coming off an uncharacteristic 3-7 record last season, and return a total of nine starters, including five on a defense that coach Carlton Terry believes will be the strength of his team. The defensive line is somewhat undersized but is experienced and features coveted college recruit Tonka Hemingway. Terry’s son, sophomore Carlton Terry II, will take over at quarterback.

“We have a great group of young men. We’re excited about the product we’ll put on the field,” Terry said. “. . . Expectations are high in Conway. We strive to be the best. We don’t always get there but that’s our goal and we strive to get there every year.”

Green Sea Floyds: The Trojans are coming off a Class A state championship, and could be even better this season with most of their starters returning, including key skill players.

“Winning a state championship is always a blessing, it’s always the goal of every team that starts every season. I think what maybe made it a little more special was the fact that nobody saw it coming,” Kiefer said. “We’ll go in with high expectations. Nobody should go into the season without your goal being the best in the state.”

Loris: After coaching a few consecutive seasons without a full complement of assistant coaches, Snider has added two coaches to the staff this season. “We’re excited about what that means for our future,” Snider said.

The Lions have five returning starters on offense and six on defense and a fair amount of seniors, but they also have several freshmen and sophomores on the roster. “There’s talent coming through there, it’s just inexperienced talent,” Snider said. “So we will be a very big mix of seniors and underclassmen.”

Myrtle Beach: Assistant coach Tim Christy filled in for Wilson on Tuesday for the defending Class 4A state champion Seahawks, who lost some talented skill players to graduation but return senior QB Luke Doty, a South Carolina commitment, kicker Chad Toone and additional talent.

“The expectations run high not only in our locker room but in our community and we’re always trying to live up to those expectations,” Christy said. “The kids who are getting into our lineup now have played some but none have extended starting experience so it will be interesting to see how they react.”

North Myrtle Beach: The Chiefs have graduated 47 seniors in the past two seasons so they’ll be young, with five offensive and three defensive starters returning. Senior Ramsey Lewis will play multiple offensive positions including quarterback, along with sophomore baseball prospect Cameron Freeman, and the Chiefs can count on kicker Zane Smith.

NMB has had some coaching turnover. “One thing I’m really excited about this year is we have probably the best coaching staff we’ve had since I’ve been at North Myrtle,” head coach Matt Reel said. “We’ve had a lot of turnover as far as coaches, one because we need the guys to meet certain expectations. I think that’s a big thing with your coaching staff because you give your kids all these things they need to adhere to and be responsible for, and you have to keep your coaches on those same things as well.”

Socastee: The Braves have improved numbers over the past couple years after falling to about 25 on the varsity a couple seasons ago. Head coach Marty Jacobs said there are about 40 on the varsity, including 23 returning from 2018, and another 50 on the JV this season.

Jacobs, a longtime coach who planned to be out of coaching this year prior to the resignation of Braves coach Doug Illing in late April, is the interim coach this season. “Three months ago I was not coaching football, I was going home every day at 3 p.m. in the afternoon and going to the gym and working out,” Jacobs said. “. . . This is a great honor and very exciting for me.”

St. James: Head coach Tommy Norwood is in his second year at the school and 33rd season as a coach overall and is trying to build the Sharks into a winner. He has about 80 players in the varsity and JV programs, including about 60 who went through the offseason weight training program. The offense will be led by senior running back Malachi Butler.

“We had a good summer, we had a lot of people in the weight room and we kind of held everybody accountable on it. At 7:30 it opened, at 7:31 the door closed and you didn’t get in if you weren’t there at that time,” Norwood said. “We have to establish a program, not a team. . . . We’re staying on course, we’re building one brick at a time.”

Waccamaw: The Warriors will attempt to overcome the team tragedies this season, and the program has shown promise under Fidler, who said the team has its most players ever, which will allow the Warriors to keep freshmen off the varsity roster. Fidler said there are approximately 35 players on both varsity and JV, and he returns five starters on both offense and defense and several more players with varsity experience.

The school’s stadium seating capacity has been more than doubled, and several enhancements have been made to the stadium, field and athletic facilities. “We are a stronger football team, we’re a faster football team, we’re more disciplined,” Fidler said. “We’re finally getting this thing to where we want it to go.”

CNB Kickoff Classic

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Brooks Stadium, Conway

Cost: $7