Week 11 Previews & Picks: New coaches find success

It’s a special night in many ways for the North Myrtle Beach High football program as the Chiefs have a chance to cap their first undefeated season in program history and clinch their first outright region title with a win over visiting St. James. It’s also senior night, setting the stage for a memorable evening at the Hank Hester Sports Complex.

What makes the No. 2-ranked Chiefs’ season so impressive are the circumstances. First-year coach Matt Reel took over the job seamlessly and has the team playing the best ball I can recall from a North Myrtle Beach team over the past 20-plus years. This group of Chiefs seems to have that special something that keeps teams playing past Thanksgiving.

The Chiefs (9-0 overall, 3-0 region) will enjoy a well-deserved celebration tonight against another first-year head coach and North Myrtle Beach grad Joey Price, who is having a tougher time turning the Sharks (2-7, 0-3) around. They showed a lot of progress over last year’s winless campaign, but they have a long way to go to reach the rest of the teams in the region. … North Myrtle Beach 38, St. James 13.

* Carolina Forest at Conway: The Tigers (8-1, 4-0) have also had a breakout year under first-year coach Carlton Terry, capped by a Region 6-5A title-clinching win at Sumter last week. A victory over the rival Panthers would put a perfect ending on a near-perfect regular season, and the Tigers have the potential to make a deep run in the playoffs. The Panthers need a win or some help to improve their playoff positioning. … Conway 34, Carolina Forest 17.

* Myrtle Beach at Wilson: The Seahawks (5-4, 2-1) can claim the No. 2 seed in Region 7-4A with a win at Florence Memorial Stadium on Thursday night. This Wilson team is much improved under a first-year coach and will test the Seahawks secondary with deep threat Zion Keith. But Myrtle Beach has won four of its last five and seems to be peaking at the right time. … Myrtle Beach 41, Wilson 38.

* Sumter at Socastee: The Braves (5-4, 1-3) close out the regular season at home against an angry Gamecocks squad that lost last week to Conway on a blocked PAT. Socastee has shown some serious toughness this season against teams with superior depth, and a win tonight would give the Braves a winning season and a playoff berth. … Sumter 35, Socastee 28.

* Greenwood Christian at Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach: The Saints (5-4, 2-3) have already set the school record for wins in a season, and they can celebrate the program’s first-ever winning season with a victory at Ashley Booth Field. They need help to get in the playoffs but they already have plenty of reasons to be proud of this season. … CAMB 34, GCA 27.

* Texas State at Coastal Carolina: The Chants (1-6, 0-3) have had a rough run over their six-game losing streak against some of the toughest teams in the Sun Belt Conference, but the Bobcats (1-6, 0-3) present the perfect chance for the Chants to snap the skid. … CCU 27, Texas State 21.

* Vanderbilt at South Carolina: The Gamecocks (5-2, 3-2) have played inspired football this season and can clinch a bowl berth by beating the slumping Commodores. Conway product Bryan Edwards could have a field day against a smaller secondary. … South Carolina 27, Vanderbilt 16.

* Georgia Tech at Clemson: The Tigers (6-1, 4-1) always seem to have problems with the Yellow Jackets’ triple option attack, but this Clemson defense likes to get down and dirty. Look for Socastee standout Hunter Renfrow to have a huge game against a larger secondary … Clemson 31, Georgia Tech 20.

Last week 5-2, overall 48-20

– Photo by Louis E. Keiner

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