Playoffs Previews & Picks: Tigers, Chiefs riding storm

nmbfoot-10There are only two Grand Strand teams still playing football in December, and they may share a common MVP – Hurricane Matthew. At least the two-week delay caused by the storm proved to be a turning point for both teams and their seasons.

Conway and North Myrtle Beach enter Friday night’s third round of the playoffs on five-game winning streaks as they hit the road looking for continued success in the Lower State semifinals. Their respective runs seemed less likely six weeks ago.

North Myrtle Beach was coming off its lone loss of the season – a 43-23 defeat to rival Myrtle Beach – when then-starting quarterback Ronnie Bass Jr. was injured. The three-week break gave third-string sophomore Cason McClendon time to prepare for the new role, which proved to be invaluable experience after Bass was dismissed from the team before the playoff opener.

Conway was a modest 3-3 when the hurricane break hit, and the Tigers spent that time building up an impending showdown with region-leading Sumter. When Conway came up on the short end of a triple-overtime defeat to the Gamecocks, the Tigers’ playoff hopes were in doubt. But Conway responded by beating rival Carolina Forest in triple OT the next week and by winning out.

North Myrtle Beach has won five straight games by an average score of 43-8, including two shutouts, as well as claiming the Region 7-4A title and posting a program best 11-1 record. Conway’s run has seen more drama, including field-goal margins of victory over Carolina Forest and Goose Creek. Last week’s surprise shutout of Spring Valley showed the defense is starting to hit its stride.

Both teams seem to be peaking at the right time as they enter their respective third-round matches. Look for the Chiefs to take a giant leap forward in program history by shocking the Eagles (North Myrtle Beach 27, Chapin 24), while the Tigers also make it six wins in a row by knocking off the host Patriots (Conway 23, Fort Dorchester 21) to continue their playoff runs.

Last week: 2-0; overall 42-17

Photo by Sona McIntyre

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