Pigskin Peek: Chiefs gear up for strong start, finish

nmbfoot-12scrambleOne thing that has stayed true and consistent for the last three seasons for the North Myrtle Beach High football team – tough competition to start.

In 2014 and 2015, the Chiefs opened the season with losses to five-time defending state champion Dillon High School. To kick off its season, North Myrtle Beach welcomes Timberland on Friday. The Wolves, who won the state championship in 2014, come in ranked No. 3 in the state at the Class 3A level.

Fortunately for the Chiefs, they are better prepared for a big early test this time around, thanks to an improved off-season conditioning program installed by third-year coach Blair Hardin.

“Our guys have worked really hard during the off-season and the preseason,” Hardin said. “We are getting our kids to understand terminology and fine tune the small things about the game.”

Those small things are taking hold in his team, including senior quarterback Ronnie Bass, who is one of the many leaders on this year’s squad that returns nine starters on offense and seven on defense.

“Coach Hardin has been trying to instill that (Off-season work is where championships are won) into the player’s heads ever since he got here, and I had my first off-season with him. I knew that if I wanted our team to succeed, myself and everyone else had to buy into that idea,” Bass added. “Coach would always tell us that we would be the (most in shape team in the state) simply because one of our biggest strengths is our speed. We are going to use it to the fullest extent of the game.”

NMB head football coach Blair Hardin said that being consistent is the goal of its team for the season. He feels that by eliminating mental mistakes, the Chiefs could be in every game.

“We tell our players about being consistent and we can’t beat ourselves in games,” Hardin said. “We have to finish the game, and we must be better in every phase of the game.”

On offense, the team returns every starter except center Chris Coleman and wide receiver Merrill Moss. They also lost long snapper Cameron Kelshaw, who is vying for a starting spot at Campbell University this season. The Chiefs are working on filling that role.

“He (Cameron) is definitely a really good snapper. He did a really job for us at the position,” Hardin said. “Having a good long snapper is very important (especially on punts and field goals and extra points).”

Bass will be called upon to run the spread option, and he has plenty of weapons to choose from. Running backs Kered Class and T.J. Gore provide lots of speed and power for the ground game, and receiver/defensive back Tyler Gore adds another dimension to the attack. The team is counting on Cullin Mitchell and Dominic Vereen to keep defenses honest at the tight end spot. Jerrell Dease, Steven Bryant and Kwane Livingston add further experience for the Chiefs.

“It is a scheme that we feel like can help us be more competitive and it helps our defense to play sound as a team,” Hardin said.

Bryant and Chris Johnson, who has moved from strong safety to linebacker, will be important on the defensive side of the ball.

Many of the these players had big games against Conway in the CNB Kickoff Classic, and Hardin said he has been proud of the performance of his team to date.

“One thing that I am proud of us in our scrimmages – we had no turnovers, and our guys have gotten better with each scrimmage,” Hardin said. “We are not where we want to be yet, but our kids our improving and that is all we can ask.

“We are trying to build a tradition here that’s never really been done. Our kids are really looking forward to that opportunity this year.”

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH
Aug. 19 – Timberland
Aug. 26 – Loris
Sept. 2 – West Brunswick (NC)
Sept. 9 – at Carvers Bay
Sept. 16 – at Socastee
Sept. 23 – at Camden
Sept. 30 – at Myrtle Beach*
Oct. 14 – Wilson*
Oct. 21 – Marlboro County*
Oct. 28 – at St. James*

* Region game

Photo by Joel Beachum

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