No. 6 Chiefs struggle their way past revitalized Sharks

Without raising his voice, without screaming his face red or popping any veins in his temples, Matt Reel tried to get his point across.

The North Myrtle Beach football coach, moments after his squad moved to 4-0 with a 20-6 victory over St. James, declared the the coming days would be “open tryouts” and that no starter’s position was secure. Such are the breaks when the No. 6 team in Class 4A has yet another underwhelming performance against another should-be overmatched opponent.

“My guys knew. I looked them in the eye – they knew,” Reel said. “I could have not said anything at all and they knew where I was coming from. I had seven guys walk up to me after the game and say ‘Coach, we played’ a word I can’t say.”

The Chiefs – who defeated St. James by a combined score of 105-7 the last two seasons – were out of sorts offensively, almost from the beginning. They scored the first 13 points of the game and led by that margin at halftime. But it should have been so much more.

There were three turnovers, all in the first half. And 93 yards of penalties. And plenty of missed blocks.

Like St. James has done against so many other teams even during its roughest patches, it uglied up North Myrtle Beach’s best-laid intentions. Still, it was a surprising final score considering the Sharks fell 34-0 at Hilton Head on Aug. 24.

“Nobody gives us a chance,” St. James first-year coach Tommy Norwood said after his first home game. “But we gave ourselves a chance and gained a little bit of confidence. We’re a much better team than we were two weeks ago.”

The Sharks got into the end zone three minutes into the fourth quarter on a Chris Anderson 6-yard touchdown run out of the Wildcat package. However, that’s where St. James’ good offensive fortunes would start and stop, at least in terms of scoring.

North Myrtle Beach responded with a six-play, 62-yard drive that ended with quarterback Cason McClendon finding Naseem Harrison from 19 yards out to extend the lead back to two touchdowns.

The series was effective, and it showed why Reel was so upset with his team after the game. That flash of offensive brilliance – the last four plays of the drive went for 23, 10, 8 and 19 yards – is the reason North Myrtle Beach is ranked by the state’s pollsters.

Just the same, the showdowns are going to get more serious in a short period. After one more non-region game against Socastee and the Chiefs’ off week, the gauntlet that is expected to be Region VI-4A will begin.

North Myrtle Beach will have to face the No. 1 team in the class (Hartsville), No. 3 Myrtle Beach and a Marlboro County squad that was receiving votes in the latest rankings, not to mention a Wilson team that could be a significant dark-horse playoff candidate.

“When we get to conference play, we’re going to be playing some really good teams,” McClendon said. “We’ve got to have better practices. We’ve got to continue to get better. You don’t start and finish the season as the same team. You’ve got to progressively get better throughout the year. We’ve got to continue to do that.”

If not, even Reel admits his calm demeanor probably won’t last.

Photo by Janet Morgan/myhorrynews

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