Chiefs charge past Tigers to reach Lower State semis

Matt Reel spent a portion of the moments leading up to Friday’s game against Wilson raving about the job defensive coordinator Greg Hill has done.

Consider the pregame compliment repaid again.

North Myrtle Beach’s defense shut down the Tigers in the first half and then did more than enough in the second half to ensure the sizable halftime lead stuck. As a result, the Chiefs won 34-22 and advanced to the third round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

“He’s done a great job of fitting our coaches where their talents are,” Reel said of Hill. “Our kids, too, he’s putting them in the best place to use their talents.”

Although Wilson scored three second-half touchdowns, the game was never closer than 10 points, thanks to such a dominant first-half effort on that side of the ball. Prior to halftime, the Tigers were able to put just up 63 yards of offense, and all of those came on their opening series.

After that, Wilson had five consecutive three-and-outs, allowing North Myrtle Beach to build a 20-2 advantage.

The Chiefs then made it stick with an impressive closing defensive stand.

Leading by the final margin and with 3:27 left on the clock, they tallied two sacks on potent Wilson quarterback Zayshaun Rice and picked him off in the end zone with under a minute to go, allowing North Myrtle Beach to kneel out the clock and advance.

It wasn’t a perfect effort, to be sure.

Rice connected with Jakobe Quillen for a 49-yard scoring strike less than 3 minutes into the third quarter and then hit Antwan Smith on a 76-yard, one-place scoring drive 4 minutes into the fourth. On both plays, the receivers made adjustments that created space on the ultra-sloppy field.

“We’ve got to fix what we messed up, because we made a lot of mistakes,” defensive lineman Marcelous Livingston said. “Once we get that fixed, we can play with anybody in the state. I know my guys fight. They always fight. Those are things that we can work on in practice.”

Said Reel: “They’re kind of explosive, but they’re kind of hit-or-miss. We had two [busted coverages] and we gave up two touchdowns. But you play really good defense and you get a 20-2 first half. That’s the frustrating thing is you know what you can do and wonder why you don’t do it all the time.”

Instead of having the offseason to think about that, Reel can debate it while preparing for another Region 6-4A rematch, this time with rival Myrtle Beach. The Seahawks defeated Marlboro County on Friday to defend their homefield advantage.

Not so coincidentally, it was the first meeting between the two when the Chiefs started playing significantly better. After several ugly wins early in the year and then 23-point loss to Hartsville, North Myrtle Bach lost 17-14 to the Seahawks on Oct. 25. Since that game, the Chiefs have won three straight, all by double digits.

And most importantly, two of those were playoff victories.

They have allowed a team that not too long ago would have cherished a single playoff win to make a third straight deep run into the postseason.

“I’m not saying they didn’t work before we got here, but it’s a different level,” Reel said. “It’s a different level of commitment. If they don’t commit to it, it doesn’t mean anything. There’s been a lot of consistency.”

Listed among that consistency is the winning.

Photo by Janet Morgan/myhorrynews

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