High School Football

Myrtle Beach stuns Hartsville with 21-point comeback in state Class AAA quarterfinals

Video: MB Seahawks Celebrate Win Over Hartsville

Post game locker room celebration after Myrtle Beach's dramatic come back to beat Hartsville in the Class AAA playoff.
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Post game locker room celebration after Myrtle Beach's dramatic come back to beat Hartsville in the Class AAA playoff.

In a team huddle during a timeout with 2 seconds remaining Friday night prior to a 27-yard field goal attempt, Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson asked his senior kicker Mitchell McCrackin if he had a girlfriend.

McCrackin responded that he did.

“I said, ‘Well, if you make this kick you’ll have a lot more,’ ” Wilson said.

McCrackin may now be fending off advances from female classmates, as his game-winning kick on the final play was the critical blow in Myrtle Beach’s wild 52-49 win over Hartsville in the Class AAA state quarterfinals.

Myrtle Beach overcame a 21-point third-quarter deficit to the state’s previously undefeated, top-ranked Class AAA team as senior quarterback Drayton Arnold threw for 281 yards and four touchdowns in the second half alone to lead the improbable and momentous comeback.

“We’ve been in some crazy games over the years, and that was up there,” Wilson said. “That was a big ballgame, especially being down 21 and coming back. It’s just tremendous.”

Myrtle Beach (10-3) travels to Midland Valley (9-4), a 27-12 winner over Georgetown on Friday, next week in the state semifinals.

The Seahawks struggled to stop Hartsville’s vaunted rushing attack, which rolled up 366 yards and seven touchdowns on 42 carries. But with Hartsville leading 35-14 and in Myrtle Beach territory with the ball midway through the third quarter, the Seahawks managed a stop to force a punt and took over on their own 9.

That’s where the comeback began, as a nine-play, 91-yard drive was capped by a 37-yard touchdown pass down the middle from Arnold to Elijah Rice.

With the Seahawks rushing for just 42 yards on 19 carries – star senior Brandon Sinclair was held to 21 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries – the comeback was on Arnold’s arm.

“I think it really just shows our character,” Arnold said. “We just fight. That’s the only thing we can do when we’re down 21, just fight and have as much fun as we can. You can’t be afraid. If you’re afraid I think you’re going to lose. If you’re down 21 you just have to fight back.”

The Old Dominion commitment completed 25 of 46 passes for 421 yards and six touchdowns, with his lone interception coming on a desperation pass into the end zone on the final play of the first half.

“He made some big-time throws under tremendous pressure,” Wilson said. “That’s just a sign of a great senior leader who has been around the block and been in some big ballgames. He’s worked his tail off in our program.”

The Red Foxes (12-1) fumbled on their own 46 on their next third-quarter possession and Arnold made them pay with a 51-yard TD pass to Keyonte Sessions, who was uncovered down the right sideline and slipped a tackle en route to the end zone.

Hartsville pushed its advantage back to 14 points on a 3-yard run by Tiyon Evans – who gained 226 yards and scored four touchdowns on 19 carries – which was set up by a 63-yard third-down pass from Matt Lynch to Steve Joyner.

A 15-yard touchdown reception by Will Vereen on the first play of the fourth quarter cut Hartsville’s advantage to 42-35, but another 3-yard TD run by Evans gave the Red Foxes a 49-35 lead with 9:11 remaining.

The Seahawks scored the final 17 points. “We got some momentum there in the fourth quarter and was able to jump all over that momentum, and that momentum will carry you sometimes and it did,” Wilson said.

Myrtle Beach again pulled within a touchdown with a five-play, 55-yard drive that took just 54 seconds and was capped by a 3-yard Sinclair run.

A 15-yard chop block penalty on first down of Hartsville’s ensuing possession helped Myrtle Beach force a punt and the Seahawks took over at the Hartsville 43. Arnold hit Cortez Brown on a 41-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field to tie the game at 49 with 6:33 remaining.

The teams traded punts before Hartsville began its final drive at its own 26 with 2:40 to play. On third-and-7 at the Hartsville 40, Lynch was sacked and fumbled, and Seahawks junior linebacker Dlanor Tilton recovered the ball at the 33 with 27 seconds remaining. “Words can’t explain how happy I was,” Tilton said.

A 22-yard reception by Rice to the 11 set up the winning kick.

“I thought both defenses were pretty good coming in, but it certainly was a little more wild than anybody expected,” said Hartsville coach Jeff Calabrese. “No lead was safe at any point in time. You’re talking about a three-year starting quarterback in Drayton Arnold, who is phenomenal. You’re talking about [Rice], who is a cat-quick receiver, you’ve got Brandon Sinclair. They’re a very explosive team.

“… We couldn’t get them off the field. We couldn’t get a stop, they got a couple stops on us, and the turnover at the end gave them a chance to finish it.”

Rice finished with nine receptions for 167 yards and two TDs, Brown had eight for 106 and a TD, Vereen had three for 54 and two scores, and Sessions had two catches for 74 yards and a TD.

“The amount we’ve grown from the first game of the year is absolutely unbelievable,” Arnold said of his relationship with his receivers. “… I really love those guys.”

Arnold and his receivers were dazzling on the game’s opening possession, completing three consecutive passes to drive the Seahawks 65 yards, the third pass a 30-yarder to Rice down the middle for a TD.

Hartsville immediately answered with a long drive predominantly with its ground game, going 86 yards in just five plays. Evans capped the drive with an 18-yard run around the left end.

Hartsville took a 14-7 lead after sacking Arnold at the 5 then blocking a punt and recovering the ball in the end zone.

The Seahawks tied the game at 14 early in the second quarter on a 10-yard fade to the back left corner of the end zone to Vereen. The TD was set up by a 28-yard catch by Rice on third-and-10 that combined with a roughing-the-passer penalty brought the ball to the Hartsville 12.

Hartsville regained the lead on a 6-yard TD run by Brian Rivers with 4:22 remaining in the first half that was set up by a 28-yard Rivers reception down the middle on fourth-and-7 at the Myrtle Beach 35.

Hartsville forced a three-and-out by Myrtle Beach and regained possession at its 26 with 2:40 remaining in the half. A 35-yard run by Evans was followed by a 31-yard touchdown run by Jalen Jacobs on his only carry of the game with 1:16 remaining that gave the Red Foxes a 28-14 lead.

A Hartsville pass interference penalty and 22-yard reception by Rice got the Seahawks to the Hartsville 30 with 8 seconds left in the half, and Arnold’s desperation heave into the end zone was intercepted.

It took Hartsville only three plays into the second half to push its advantage to 21 points on a 27-yard run by Evans.

“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of our players and coaches for continuing to battle when we’re down 21 points in the third quarter,” Wilson said. “It was just a tremendous job. It’s something we preach all the time about handling adversity and sticking together no matter the situation or circumstances, and they did that tonight.”

Hartsville

14

14

14

7

49

Myrtle Beach

7

7

14

24

52

FIRST QUARTER

MB—Elijah Rice 30 pass from Drayton Arnold (Matthew Card kick)

H—Tiyon Evans 18 run (Miller Braddock kick)

H—Riquan Cotton blocked punt recovered in EZ (Braddock kick)

SECOND QUARTER

MB—Will Vereen 10 pass from Arnold (Mitchell McCrackin kick)

H—Brian Rivers 6 run (Braddock kick)

H—Jalen Jacobs 31 run (Braddock kick)

THIRD QUARTER

H—Evans 27 run (Braddock kick)

MB—Rice 37 pass from Arnold (Card kick)

MB—Keyonte Sessions 51 pass from Arnold (McCrackin kick)

H—Evans 3 run (Braddock kick)

FOURTH QUARTER

MB—Vereen 15 pass from Arnold (Card kick)

H—Evans 3 run (Braddock kick)

MB—Brandon Sinclair 3 run (McCrackin kick)

MB—Cortez Brown 41 pass from Arnold (Card kick)

MB—McCrackin 27 FG

▪ RUSHING: Hartsville: Tiyon Evans 19-226, Brian Rivers 16-52, Shy McPhail 12-67, Jalen Jacobs 1-31, Matt Lynch 3-(-10). Myrtle Beach: Brandon Sinclair 11-21, Drayton Arnold 8-21.

▪ PASSING: Hartsville: Lynch 7-13-0–127. Myrtle Beach: 25-46-1–421.

▪ RECEIVING: Hartsville: Rivers 3-29, Steve Joyner 2-72, McPhail 1-17, Evans 1-9. Myrtle Beach: Elijah Rice 9-167, Cortez Brown 8-106, Will Vereen 3-54, Keyonte Sessions 2-74, Sinclair 2-13, Jack Dixon 1-7.

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin

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