Second-half surge propels NMB to Lower State semis

nmbfoot-2runThe best season in North Myrtle Beach High football history keeps getting better.

The Chiefs are headed to the third round of the Class 4A state playoffs thanks to a strong second-half surge in Friday night’s 28-14 victory over visiting Cane Bay.

The No. 6-ranked Chiefs (11-1) broke open a tied game late in the third period to blow past the No. 7 Cobras (10-2) and advance to the Lower State semifinals for only the second time in program history. They will travel to top-seeded Chapin next week for a chance to keep rewriting the school record books.

The Cobras’ game plan to use their option attack to wear down the Chiefs instead had the opposite effect. Just when the tide appeared to be turning Cane Bay’s way, North Myrtle Beach turned to the JV team. With the game tied at 7-all late in the third quarter, third-string sophomore quarterback Cason McClendon connected with fellow sophomore Tyrone Stockdale for a 40-yard touchdown pass hookup between players who started the season on the JV squad.

The Chiefs also got some big plays from upperclassmen in the clutch. Senior Steven Bryant recovered a fumble on the ensuing possession, and fellow senior Cullen Mitchell delivered the knockout blow in the opening ticks of the fourth quarter by catching his fifth TD pass of the season on a diving 5-yard toss from McClendon to make it 21-7. McClendon’s earlier third-down reception and a 15-yard personal foul penalty came on the play before the McClendon-to-Stockdale game-winner.

But perhaps the unsung hero of the night was senior defensive back Dondre Thompson, whose stripped fumble on the Cobras’ opening possession of the night set up the Chiefs’ first score of the night. North Myrtle Beach’s Kered Class capped the first drive of the game with a 2-yard TD run and the Chiefs defense made the 7-0 lead hold up at halftime with a fourth-and-1 stand on their own 2-yard line.

The Cobras marched into the red zone again to open the third period, but Thompson came up big again with an interception in the end zone to kill the drive. Cane Bay finally found paydirt on their third venture into the red zone on a 6-yard TD run by Kris Copeland, and the Cobras appeared to have the momentum. But McClendon’s back-to-back passes to Mitchell and Stockdale started a Chiefs’ surge down the stretch.

Mitchell’s TD catch and a long TD run by Tyler Gore in the fourth quarter put the Chiefs on top 28-7. Cane Bay reached the end zone in the final seconds, but North Myrtle Beach recovered the onsides kick and ran out the clock to touch off the celebration.

Photo by Louis E. Keiner and Lesley M. Etherson

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