Garcia passes for Carolina Forest

Carolina Forest's Mason Garcia passes in a scrimmage with North Myrtle Beach. 

QB or new QB? That is the question facing several Horry County prep football teams this fall. Following a recent run of veterans at the quarterback position, five of nine county schools will be test-driving first-year starters in 2018.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Myrtle Beach High coach Mickey Wilson, who is replacing two-year starter Lawson Cribb with highly publicized junior Luke Doty. The South Carolina commit split time with Lawson but now gets the chance to fly solo this season.

“Luke is a very talented athlete but he is still growing at the quarterback position,” Wilson said. “It was unique for him to play wide receiver for us last year, but he would be the first to tell you that he benefited from everything that happened to him. He had a good chance to grow, and as a quarterback you can always learn new things.”

Doty received more than 20 major offers before putting the recruiting process to rest on July 31, committing to South Carolina so he could turn his attention to the task at hand.

“I knew where I wanted to be and that's with the Gamecocks,” he said. “I just wanted to get it over with so I could focus on my team and having a great season.”

Not every school had the luxury of plugging in a four-star recruit. After three-year starter and dual-threat QB Matt Beale moved on to play at Coastal Carolina University, Carolina Forest turns to signal-caller Mason Garcia.

The 6-foot-5 junior is more comfortable as a passer, and that’s where he shines.

Garcia’s passes have been clocked at 55 miles per hour, and he expects to be hurling the ball all over the field this fall.

“They want me to sit back there and pass the ball a little more, try to get the playbook to open up,” Garcia said. “We can stick some running plays in there every now and then, see how that works.”

Garcia, who played on an undefeated JV team last year, said adjusting to the speed of the game has been a challenge, but he’s ready for the starting varsity role.

“I just feel confident,” he said.

Conway senior and first-year starter DaQuinton Grady will direct a new offensive system that features formations and plays from a variety of schemes.

Tigers coach Carlton Terry hopes the new offense will make defending more difficult for opponents, but it could take time for Grady to master.

“DaQuinton is stepping in at quarterback,” Terry said. “He hasn’t played quarterback since his sophomore year on the JV team. He’s a smart kid. He’ll be able to make reads and audibles based on what the defense gives us.”

Grady played cornerback for the varsity Tigers last year and hasn’t played quarterback since leading the JV team as a sophomore, but he's putting his faith in the system, his teammates and himself.

“It’s very challenging, but I’m ready for the hard work,” Grady said. “I’m trusting my team. I feel like I can do it.”

The Tigers are expected to use their running game more than the pass-happy squad has in the past.

When asked if he’s more comfortable running or passing, Grady was blunt: “Both.”

On the South Strand, Socastee will try to fill in for three-year starter Hunter Illing with senior Seth McKinney, and St. James welcomes back junior Berkeley Young after he was sidelined with a shoulder injury just three games into the 2017 season.

Gage Conner, a junior, will lead the Loris offense this season. He started a few games last year, but was primarily a backup. In the offseason, Lions coach Jamie Snider spent about 30 minutes each school day talking with Conner about ways to read defenses.

“That’s helped me out,” he said.

With a strong offensive line and some playmaking wide receivers, Conner said fans should expect some entertaining football this fall.

That’s usually the case with the introduction of young gun quarterbacks.

“It’s going to be a show,” he said. “Come out and watch.”

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