Athlete of Week: NMB on a roll with McClendon at QB

In Cason McClendon’s first full season as the starting quarterback for the North Myrtle Beach High football team, the Chiefs are 10-0 for the first time in school history.

Coincidence? It is to hear the modest junior signal-caller tell it. Never mind his 151.4 QB rating, his 1,375 passing yards, his 18-to-7 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio, or his five rushing TDs. The duel-threat McClendon, an imposing force at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, sees his role simply as a small cog in a larger machine – one that is firing on all cylinders.

“It’s been great to go undefeated and be a part of school history, but it’s not just about me,” said McClendon, whose Chiefs will host their Class 4A playoff opener on Friday as a top seed. “It’s taken a team effort from all the players, the coaches, the school and the whole community supporting us. It’s been special just to be a part of it.”

It was exactly one year ago this week that McClendon was thrust into the starting role after his predecessor was suspended from the team entering the postseason. McClendon showed surprising poise in leading the Chiefs to the third round, and he has played like a seasoned pro this season. Again, he spreads the credit around the same way he does the football.

“It was tough at first because I felt like there was a lot of pressure on me, but having so many great teammates really takes the pressure off,” McClendon said. “(First-year coach Matt Reel) did a good job of getting me ready so all I have to do is go out and play, which comes pretty naturally to me. At the end of the day, it’s a football game. I’ve been playing all my life.”

That cool approach has helped North Myrtle Beach become one of the most prolific in the state, averaging 38.4 points and 364.4 yards per game. The Chiefs also boast a strong, speedy defense that allows only 15.5 points per game – including four games giving up seven points or less. Add in a special teams unit led by the foot of freshman kicker Zane Smith (45-of-46 PATs, 8-of-10 FGs) and you have a balanced team focused on a state title.

“I’ve got a bunch of running backs to give the ball to, a bunch of guys running around catching the ball, an offensive line that gives me lots of time, and a defense that’s playing great. It makes my job a lot easier,” McClendon said. “We are more than a team, we’re like a family. We’re playing together and for each other. We’re a hot team right now and we believe we can go a long way if we take them one game at a time.”

Photo by Louis E. Keiner

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