Seven Grand Strand teams are ready for play­offs

The Sun News (Sunday) - - Sports - BY T.J. LUNDEEN

The South Carolina High School League foot­ball brack­ets are set, and seven Grand Strand teams made the cut to play for a chance at a cham­pi­onship. While there were no re­gion cham­pi­ons on the Grand Strand this year, Carolina For­est, Myr­tle Beach, Aynor and Green Sea Floyds all fin­ished in the sec­ond spot and will host first-round play­off con­tests. Green Sea Floyds earned a bye and has al­ready ad­vanced to the sec­ond round.

CLASS 5A

In Class 5A, Con­way will head to Lexington to play River Bluff, a team coached by for­mer North Myr­tle Beach coach Blair Hardin. The Tigers will have to con­tend with Braden Walker and the Gator rush­ing at­tack, as

Walker has put up over 1,400 yards and 16 touch­downs on the sea­son. Con­way’s de­fense will have to gear up to stop the run, some­thing Hardin did well dur­ing his time at North Myr­tle Beach, and has con­tin­ued since mov­ing to the mid­lands. River Bluff doesn’t pass all that much, with fewer than 100 at­tempts by quar­ter­back Michael Rikard through 10 weeks of ac­tion. For Con­way to come out on top, its de­fense, led by Tonka Hem­ing­way and Bran­don Sumpter, will have to get the Ga­tors off the field as quickly as pos­si­ble.

Also in Class 5A, Carolina For­est will make its re­turn to the play­offs and will face a fa­mil­iar play­off op­po­nent as Lexington is the Pan­thers’ draw. Last sea­son, Carolina For­est bounced Lexington from the play­offs 34-21, us­ing a strong run­ning game and big plays to power the up­set win. This year, no­body is look­ing at Carolina For­est as an un­der­dog; the Pan­thers have played well all sea­son for coach Marc Mor­ris. Quar­ter­back Ma­son Garcia has Carolina For­est rolling on of­fense, put­ting up over 30 points in six games this sea­son. Lexington’s Akeem Ni­cholas paces the Lexington of­fense, which has made a rad­i­cal shift from the spread style of for­mer coach Josh Stepp into the run­ning-fo­cused of­fense of coach Perry Wool­bright, an­other for­mer North Myr­tle Beach coach. Which­ever team can con­trol the tempo will come out vic­to­ri­ous in this matchup.

CLASS 4A

In Class 4A, Myr­tle Beach will have to quickly move past the dis­ap­point­ment of los­ing the Re­gion 6-4A re­gion cham­pi­onship to Hartsville and pre­pare for its open­ing-round game against Dre­her at Doug Shaw Memo­rial Sta­dium. The Sea­hawks have put up huge num­bers of­fen­sively, as ex­pected, and look to fly through the play­offs. Luke Doty has an em­bar­rass­ment of weapons at his dis­posal and the Myr­tle Beach de­fense found the end zone twice against Hartsville. Dre­her boasts a 1,200 yard rusher in Da Da Wash­ing­ton and quar­ter­back Ryan Camp­bell has been ef­fec­tive this sea­son, throw­ing for 1,300 yards and nine scores.

North Myr­tle Beach took out a strong Marl­boro County team in Week 11 to get in the play­off field and will make the trek to South Aiken for a firstround matchup. South Aiken comes into the play­offs off a 29-0 loss to West­wood and has a 5-5 record on the year. The Thor­ough­breds boast a trio of run­ning backs over 500 yards, lean­ing on the ro­ta­tion to power its of­fense. North Myr­tle Beach’s de­fense stood tall against Marl­boro County and could po­ten­tially slow down South Aiken enough for Ca­son McClen­don to put up enough points to win the game.

CLASS 3A

In his first year as head coach, Ja­son Allen has led Aynor to a home game in the play­offs, where they’ll face Bat­tery Creek. The Dol­phins come into the con­test at 2-8, hav­ing split their last four con­tests. Aynor, as al­ways, pounds the ball on of­fense with its bruis­ing rush­ing at­tack. The Blue Jack­ets have put up huge point to­tals, scor­ing more than 37 points six times. Bat­tery Creek has strug­gled to stop teams that run the ball this sea­son.

Loris will travel to Wade Hamp­ton for its open­inground game, where the Red Devils have put to­gether an im­pres­sive 7-2 cam­paign. Loris comes into the play­offs on a two-game win­ning streak, beat­ing Lake City in Week 11 and Mar­ion in Week 10. The Lions have found a re­newed com­mit­ment to the run­ning game to power their late-sea­son charge. Wade Hamp­ton boasts a pow­er­ful of­fense, scor­ing 56, 70, 57, 60, 41, and 42 points in big wins this sea­son. Loris will have its work cut out to slow down the Red Devils, but a few stops and a ball­con­trol of­fense could get the job done.

CLASS A

Green Sea Floyds comes into the play­offs white hot, scor­ing over 60 points in its fi­nal two games. The Tro­jans’ place in the bracket gives them a firstround bye, mean­ing they won’t play this up­com­ing Fri­day and have two weeks to pre­pare for C.E. Mur­ray, where they will play in the sec­ond round. Coach Donnie Kiefer isn’t wor­ried about his team.

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