Seahawks knock off Foxes with big fourth-quarter rally

mbfoot-riceFor all the state championships and big-time victories in Myrtle Beach High football history, Friday night’s Class 3A Lower State semifinal will go down as one of the greatest games in the football program’s proud history.

Trailing by as many as 21 points in the second half, the Seahawks scored 17 unanswered points in the final 8:17 to knock off No. 1 and previously unbeaten Hartsville 52-49 and advance to next week’s Lower State championship game at Midland Valley. Senior Mitchell McCrackin’s 27-yard field goal, the first of his career, split the uprights as time expired to send a standing-room only crowd at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium into a frenzy.

In a game that resembled a title prize fight between two offensive heavyweights, the Seahawks (10-3) and Red Foxes (12-1) slugged it out for four quarters and combined for more than 1,000 yards in two contrasting styles – Myrtle Beach through the air and Hartsvillle via its vaunted wing-T ground attack. Drayton Arnold threw for 450 yards and six touchdowns to four different receivers to lead the Seahawks back after they seemed to be given up for dead.

But this was a total team victory as a resilient Myrtle Beach defense that appeared to be down for the count got up off the mat to force two turnovers and a pair of three-and-outs on key late possessions. Dlanor Tilton forced and recovered a fumble with 27 seconds left and Arnold hit Rice for a big gainer to set up the final play. It all came down to a converted soccer player who calmly booted the most important kick of his life – and of the Seahawks’ season.

Trailing 49-35 in the fourth quarter, star running back Brandon Sinclair scored his only touchdown following a frustrating night against the Hartsville run defense to cut the deficit in half. After a big three-and-out by the defense, Arnold threw his sixth TD of the night on a 42-yard fingertip catch by Cortez Brown to tie it up at 49.

The offensive shootout suddenly shifted to a defensive battle over the final 8 minutes as Hartsville, which rolled up 498 total yards on the night, was forced to punt again. The Seahawks also had to kick it back and the game appeared destined for overtime before Tilton’s big play. The long Pass to Rice allowed Myrtle Beach to milk the clock and line the ball up for McCrackin’s game-winner, concluding a wild night that saw three ties and lead changes.

The Seahawks took the opening series 65 yards and drew first blood on an Arnold-to-Rice touchdown pass, but the Foxes immediately responded with an impressive drive that was capped on the first of four rushing TDs by Tiyon Evans. The Foxes made the first of several big plays on special teams on a blocked punt that was scooped up and recovered and returned for a touchdown by Riquon Cotton. The Seahawks countered with a nice touchdown drive through the air as Will Vereen made a diving catch in the end zone on a 10-yard toss from Arnold early in the second quarter to level the score at 14.

Hartsville started to flex its muscle and rattled off three unanswered touchdowns. Shy McPhail capped another drive with a 6-yard TD run, and Jalen Jacobs scored on a 31-yard TD dash just before halftime to make it 28-14 at the break. The Foxes returned the second half kickoff into Myrtle Beach territory and Evans finished it off on a to claim a 35-14 lead – their largest of the game.

But the Seahawks came to life by scoring a pair of touchdowns in less than a one minute span. Myrtle Beach took the ensuing kickoff down the field and scored on Rice’s second TD catch from Arnold. Quan Ludley forced a fumble and the offense quickly converted with a 50-yard touchdown bomb to Keyonte Sessions to cut the deficit to 35-28 late in the third period. The two teams continued to exchange offensive blows until the Seahawks defense bowed up when it counted the most, setting the stage for one of the finish to one of the wildest games ever played at Shaw.

Evans answered with his hat trick TD on a 3-yard run, but Arnold hooked up with Vereen for the second time as the two offensive powerhouses continued trading blows. The Foxes put together another rapid drive as Young finished it off with a TD run, but the Seahawks answered with their first rushing score of the night by Brandon Sinclair to cut it to 49-42.

The Seahawks defense stepped up with its best series of the night at the right time, forcing a three-and-out and getting the ball back near midfield and midway through the fourth quarter. Arnold cashed in with a -yard TD bomb to Cortez Brown to tie it up for the third time at 49. That set the stage for the finish to one of the wildest games ever played at Shaw.

Photo by Prep Stars Media

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