Seahawks’ defense holds off late charge by Chiefs

The North Myrtle Beach Chiefs made it closer than most expected. That’s when Myrtle Beach’s defense proved why it is the best unit in all of Class 4A.

The Seahawks (7-0 overall, 4-0 region) beat their Region 6-4A rival 17-14 on Thursday at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium, and they can thank that stout defense for keeping the team’s record perfect.

“They really carried us, particularly in the second half,” Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson said. “We didn’t play particularly well (on offense). To get a win and not play well, I’m proud of our guys. … We’ve been in a situation throughout the year where we’ve been up in our games and, especially in the second half, put it in cruise control.”

That wasn’t the case against the Chiefs (5-3, 1-3), at least not for Myrtle Beach’s talented defense. It was, undoubtedly, the best fourth-quarter performance Wilson could have hoped for.

After North Myrtle Beach closed the gap to 17-14 on Jordyn Gillings’ punt block and return for a touchdown eight seconds into the fourth quarter and the Seahawks fumbled away the ball on their ensuing possession, Myrtle Beach immediately followed that up with a Tank Ford interception to end the Chiefs’ first threat at tying the game or taking the lead.

North Myrtle Beach then forced a Seahawks punt and got great field position midway through the final period. This time, it was Shedrick Pointer jumping a Cason McClendon pass route for another interception.

The Chiefs got yet another chance, though. But on that final drive, J.B. Favorite – who had two earlier sacks – took over. In three consecutive plays, the 6-foot-1, 245-pound defensive lineman broke up a pass and had two quarterback pressures on McClendon.

All three pass attempts hit the turf, and Myrtle Beach was able to burn the final 98 seconds from there.

“We want it all. We want to win it all,” Favorite said. “To us, our mentality is we can’t let up anything. That fourth down came and we had to get that pressure on him. They got the punt block and it was close. We had to come out and finish the ball game.”

Said North Myrtle Beach coach Matt Reel: “In critical situations, the good teams make plays.”

Myrtle Beach’s defense had allowed just 5.5 points per game entering this week, and considering half of the Chiefs’ points came via special teams, it was further proof of just how good the Seahawks could be. But that’s been a significant theme for the region a whole throughout this season.

Hartsville’s defense is ranked second in the classification, North Myrtle Beach is third, Marlboro County was tied for seventh (entering the week) and Wilson was 13th.

“Our region, it’s every single night. There are some really good football teams,” Reel said. “We had No. 1 (in the state media rankings), then No. 3, then we’ve got Marlboro County next week. It’s just really good football.”

North Myrtle Beach will have every opportunity to right the ship and enter the playoffs strong, however. Thanks to Marlboro County’s Thursday victory over Wilson, those two teams and the Chiefs would finish in a three-way tie for third place in the region should Reel’s squad defeat Marlboro County at home next Friday.

However, lose that game, and the Chiefs fall to fifth place and are left hoping for an at-large bid to the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Myrtle Beach will head into the showdown of Lower State powers that most believed would happen earlier in the year. The Seahawks will head to Hartsville (8-0, 4-0) next week in a game that was originally scheduled for Sept. 28 before Hurricane Florence and the ensuing flooding threw much of the season schedule out of whack.

The winner of the game will finish with an undefeated regular season mark, a region championship and – most importantly – home field advantage throughout the first four rounds of the state playoffs.

“We’ve had games moved up; we’ve had games moved back. We missed three-and-a-half weeks of practice. We’ve been sent home and couldn’t practice,” Wilson said. “From that standpoint, we’ve faced a lot of adversity. Our guys going through the season undefeated to this point and having a chance to play for a region championship, I can’t tell you how proud I am of that.

“This is a huge ball game. It’s really a playoff game.”

Photo by Janet Morgan/myhorrynews

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