Week 6 Previews & Picks: Historic clash for NMB-MB

nmb-5runThey say never say never, but this time it’s safe. Myrtle Beach and rival North Myrtle Beach have never met with undefeated records until Friday night at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium, and this showdown truly should be one for the history books.

This stat is a bit misleading since the two schools traditionally play on the final week of the regular season. The move to a five-classification system and a change in region scheduling led to this meeting being moved to the region opener – one that will go a long way toward deciding the Region 7-4A title as the winner is in the driver’s seat the rest of the way.

The experienced Chiefs are no strangers to knocking off the Seahawks (6-0) in their own back yard, winning their last two trips to Shaw, which is expecting a standing-room-only crowd. Myrtle Beach is coming off a grueling non-region schedule of all 5A foes, most recently a 13-8 muddy gut check against Conway. This time the home turf will be welcome terra firma for an offense that spent most of the Battle of the Victory Bell stuck in the muck. The Chiefs are coming off a 34-13 win at Camden.

The interesting thing about this matchup is, well, the matchups, which are strength on strength. The Chiefs offense loves to work the edges with the speedy running back tandem of Kered Class and T.J. Gore, but the Seahawks have one of the best set of bookends in the state in defensive ends Sean McGonigal and Daniel Mitchell. Quarterback Ronnie Bass can run and throw and has an experienced group of receivers but the Myrtle Beach defense has forced 15 turnovers and racked up 28.5 sacks this season.

The same is true on the other side of the possession arrow as Myrtle Beach junior quarterback Lawson Cribb hopes to get the passing game going under better field conditions this week against a Chiefs defense that is allowing only 8 points per game. Linebackers Stephon Wilson and Kevliq Bennett are ball-hawking beasts the Seahawks must account for, and defensive backs Reece Finch, Chris Johnson and Tyler Gore will shadow Myrtle Beach receivers Daron Finkley, Will Vereen and Keyonte Sessions.

Conway gave the No. 7 Chiefs a pretty good blueprint for beating the No. 2 Seahawks last week, as long as they can handle a punt-snap exchange. In a tight matchup at virtually every position, the importance of special teams play and ball security become paramount. The only consolation for the hard-luck loser is a possible rematch in the Lower State finals – a very real scenario given the talent-rich teams. Round 1 goes to the Seahawks – but barely. … Myrtle Beach 24, North Myrtle Beach 23.

* Carolina Forest at Socastee: The Panthers (4-1) have been road warriors so far this season, playing their fifth away game to only one at home. But there are indications their momentum may be slowing a bit, mainly on the offensive side of the ball. Over the past 10 quarters, coinciding with the loss of star running back Dyverse Simmons, the Panthers have scored only 42 points while allowing 37 during that span. The offense accounted for one of their three TDs in last week’s 21-0 win over Loris.

Carolina Forest should be able to get the offense rolling against Socastee, which is yielding 42 points per game. The Braves (2-3) are coming off a 35-14 win over St. James, but two of their TDs came via the pick-six, and Carolina Forest QB Matt Beale doesn’t figure to be so giving. Look for Simmons’ backup Anthony McAfee to pave the way to a big win in the Region 6-5A opener. … Carolina Forest 35, Socastee 13.

* Conway at West Florence: The Tigers (2-3) try to bounce back from a tough 13-8 loss to Myrtle Beach and open Region 6-5A play on a winning note. But they have to shake off last week when they travel to face the Knights (2-3), who have won two straight following a slow start. Look for Conway QB Peyton Derrick to light it up and lead his team back on the right track. … Conway 34, West Florence 17.

* St. James at Marlboro County: You’d better believe the Bulldogs (2-4) remember the last time the Sharks (0-6) paid a visit. It was just last year in the opening round of the playoffs when St. James shocked Marlboro County for their first postseason victory in school history. Both teams have endured brutal non-region schedules, but the Bulldogs have the motivation and some home cooking in this one. … Marlboro County 27, St. James 13.

Last week 4-0; Overall 24-4

Photo by Joel Beachum

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