Playoff Previews & Picks: Braves ready for rematch

socfoot-5cutConventional wisdom says Friday night will be the finale for football on the Grand Strand as our three remaining teams are likely favored to go 0-3.

But this season has been anything but conventional, and there are strong indications that Socastee, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach are in good position to advance to the third round of the Class 3A playoffs.

Top-seeded and undefeated Socastee should be favored in its second-round home game, but the Braves (11-0) drew a bad bracket and welcome Hartsville, the defending state champion that handed Socastee its lone loss of the season in a 40-13 blowout in last year’s Lower State semifinal.

After being upset 10-7 at Crestwood this year, the Red Foxes (10-1) had to settle for a No. 2 seed to set up the rematch. They used their speed to crack the Braves’ triple-option attack last season, forcing two first-half fumbles and turning them into touchdowns. Hartsville’s offense also ran roughshod over the Socastee defense to add to the bitter ending of an otherwise stellar season.

But with many of the same players back, plus a new coach who hopefully has a few tricks up his sleeve to stop Hartsville from keying on the option, I like the Braves’ chances. Quarterback Hunter Renfrow’s ankle is fine and coach Doug Illing gets the chance to show his stuff in this one. … Socastee 24, Hartsville 21.

* Myrtle Beach at Crestwood: The second-seeded Seahawks (7-4) are having their worst season in six years, but this young Myrtle Beach team appears to be turning the corner at just the right time.

Following a regular-season finale win over North Myrtle Beach, the Seahawks posted a 35-0 shutout victory over Berkeley in last week’s playoff opener. The defense is finally putting it together, and sophomore sensations Brandon Sinclair and Drayton Arnold are starting to play like seasoned veterans. … Myrtle Beach 27, Crestwood 24.

* North Myrtle Beach at Strom Thurmond: The Chiefs (9-2) proved they are the most talented No. 3 seed in the tournament last week by pounding Orangeburg-Wilkinson on the road 52-35 in the first round.

The defense gave up more points than they have all season, but the offense picked up the slack behind QB Kendrick Furness against one of Class 3A’s top defenses. Look for the Chiefs to stay on their roll if they can avoid turnovers and handle the four-hour bus ride. … North Myrtle Beach 31, Strom Thurmond 28.

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