Seven Grand Strand teams are ready for playoffs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.