If there was a turning point for the 2018 Myrtle Beach football team, it came on Nov. 1, when the Seahawks were thrashed 70-34 at Hartsville in the de facto Region 6-4A championship game.
In that contest, Myrtle Beach fell behind 49-7 before mounting a charge led by a couple of defensive scores and more than 50 passing attempts by Luke Doty. The game was moved from the middle of the season to the extra week provided by the SCHSL after Hurricane Florence altered the regular-season schedule. That game changed everything for Myrtle Beach.
“It’s a hard lesson to learn, but we’ve got to get better from this game,” Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson said following the loss. “It’s a great opportunity to learn from our mistakes – penalties, turnovers, all of that silly stuff. We’ll be ready. We’ve got a good senior group and they didn’t quit fighting tonight. My guys will be ready to go, for sure, come playoffs.”
The playoffs began the next week, with Myrtle Beach finding new motivation – and a new weapon – to have success on the offensive side.
Going into the playoffs, Myrtle Beach had only run its quarterback, Doty, for 326 yards in eight contests. In the five playoff games that culminated in a Class 4A state championship, Doty ran for 375 yards and five touchdowns, introducing a new wrinkle for defenses to account for late in the season.
The biggest game for Doty came in a return to Hartsville’s Kellytown Stadium, the scene of his only regular-season loss. In that contest, he passed for 291 yards and five touchdowns and used his legs to the tune of 229 yards and another two scores.
“He worked his tail off to get to tonight and have a great game,” Wilson said following the Lower State Championship win over Hartsville. “It was impressive, for sure. He’s a kid that can run the football really well and we felt like that was something we could take advantage of. The biggest thing is when we got beat we went back home and learned from our mistakes. We learned and got better and that’s all that you can ask for.”
Now playing in his senior season before heading off to the University of South Carolina, Doty has last year to use as the blueprint for his work this season, where he’s the leading passer on the Grand Strand with 765 yards and a dozen touchdowns to his name, with another 189 yards rushing and a score to his credit.
“All last season we saw Luke get better as the season went along,” Wilson said of his quarterback. “From game to game and week to week, he got better within our offense and as a leader. He’s come in this year and has really taken this offense and made it his own. He’s mastered it and is doing a lot of teaching with the younger guys we’ve got this year. We’re a young team but having a leader like Luke who can work with the guys to get them ready is great for us.”
Doty has broken in a new batch of receivers, a new running back, and a revamped offensive line this season, but hasn’t missed a beat so far.
“The tough part early was just getting the timing with everyone,” Doty said. “We’ve tried to go out every day and do the small things well, make sure the details are done right and the big things will come together. (My job) is making sure everyone is on the same page and knows what they’re doing.”
While he won’t place any extra pressure on his quarterback, Wilson had high praise for Doty when prompted.
“Luke has total command of our offense and the confidence and excitement he brings is contagious,” Wilson said. “He’s a kid that has a crazy amount of pressure and hype around him but you would never know it dealing with him. He’s a great kid who really enjoys doing the work during the week to get to Friday night.”
Now, Myrtle Beach will enter the second half of its season as the top-ranked program in Class 4A and with an undefeated season as a possibility. Over the next five weeks, the Seahawks will face three programs ranked in Class 4A all in region play. Upcoming opponents North Myrtle Beach is at No. 3, Wilson is at No.5 and Hartsville fell to No. 8 following last week’s 31-10 loss to Abbeville.
Myrtle Beach will host Hartsville at 7:05 p.m. at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.
Week 5 Schedule
Aynor at Cheraw
Socastee at Carolina Forest
West Florence at Conway
Green Sea Floyds at Baptist Hill
Lake City at Loris
North Myrtle Beach at Marlboro County
St. James at South Florence
Waccamaw at Georgetown