Field conditions a concern for Wilson-NMB playoff tilt

Matt Reel’s North Myrtle Beach football team reached the second round of the state playoffs.

So, too, has his frustration with the football field he calls home.

The Chiefs’ game against Wilson will be played as scheduled on Friday night despite sections of standing water and saturated conditions throughout the field. Efforts to move the game to one of the two field turf venues in the county — Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium and Coastal Carolina’s Brooks Stadium — were nixed out of monetary concerns and event conflicts.

It will leave North Myrtle Beach and Wilson competing against not only each other, but also the soup under their cleats.

“The players have been working for this moment since January, to get a home playoff game. It’s disheartening,” Reel said. “Since we’ve been here, we’ve had issues. It’s not like this week we woke up and said ‘We have an issue with irrigation and drainage.’ We haven’t watered our field since before Hurricane Florence.”

Reel said Horry County Schools repaired four sinkholes during the offseason. It was a necessary fix, but also a band-aid one by North Myrtle Beach Athletics Director Joe Quigley’s estimations.

He said that the drainage issues on the field are caused by the underlying surface, a mixture of sand and dirt that has gelled into “muck”, as he called it, that does not allow the water to run off into the adjoining land. It has led to some interesting photos on social media this week of foot prints next to yardage lines, and in turn, false rumors that the game would be postponed or moved, two things that at least to this point are certainly not true. However, that doesn’t mean the teams haven’t already called some audibles.

In addition to likely play-calling changes, Wilson and North Myrtle Beach have both elected to wear old varsity jerseys so their newest ones are not damaged. The Chiefs have played much of this season in new white and blue tops and pants.

That was factored into the equation of keeping the game where it was.

Last week, Carolina Forest, a school whose football field deals with many of the same issues as North Myrtle Beach, moved its first-round playoff game against Lexington to Brooks Stadium. The Panthers’ administration paid a low four-figure price tag to make that happen.

“Financially, and the logistics of moving everything, that doesn’t work for North Myrtle Beach High School,” Quigley said. “Our money is tight. We look for ways to make money. A home playoff game is huge for us.”

After costs are subtracted, home teams split gate revenue with the South Carolina High School League and the visiting team. Concession money, which could be a massive influx given an expected large crowd, though, stays with the host school.

The booster club also makes money via apparel sales and other fundraisers, so the downside of moving it to Coastal or Doug Shaw (both of which were unavailable Friday and Saturday anyway) would have been considerable.

So the game will go on as scheduled, where it was scheduled.

Quigley put out a half-joking appeal for anyone with a helicopter to fly over the field for a few hours to speed up the evaporation process. But that only takes care of the immediate concern. Down the line, both he and Reel said this is a long-term problem that requires a permanent solution.

“It’s a ridiculous situation. We’ve had to cancel a handful of JV games every year. We’ve had to cancel B-team games,” Reel said, before publicly stating that North Myrtle Beach would make its case to Horry County Schools after the season. “It’s either [the district replaces the surface], or our community needs to come together and pay for it. That’s a ridiculous act to hope that our community pays for it.”

Photo by Janet Morgan/myhorrynews

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