Jackson Weatherwax grew up playing football at Pepper Geddings Recreation Center, battling future Seahawks at the Myrtle Beach complex.
He always heard about how great Myrtle Beach High School’s team was, and the school’s history of winning state titles. But he was from Carolina Forest, a place without that tradition.
“That’s pretty much how it was,” he said. “Until coach [Marc] Morris totally flipped the program around.”
After Morris arrived at Carolina Forest in 2014, he focused on turning around a program that had for years mired in mediocrity.
The Panthers reached a milestone last fall, defeating Lexington High School in the first round of the 5A playoffs. The victory was the school’s first playoff triumph in the state’s largest classification.
“We’re trying to make our team noticeable, unlike how we used to be,” Weatherwax said. “He’s made it important to everyone. It means something.”
This year, the senior hopes the team will do even better. With Sumter now out of Carolina Forest’s region, and with schools like Conway and Socastee rebuilding, the Panthers find themselves in a position to contend for a region crown and secure a prime playoff position.
“This year should be a really exciting year,” Weatherwax said. “Hopefully, we should go deep into the playoffs.”
Although Morris typically prefers a run-heavy offense, Weatherwax is optimistic about the team’s passing game with quarterback Mason Garcia taking over the starting job.
Garcia is a 6-foot-5 gunslinger, and Weatherwax hopes that opens up the Panthers passing game.
“It’s a little bit more exciting when you’ve got a quarterback that can sling it around and open up the playbook a whole lot more,” he said. “He can still kind of run it if he really needs to, but he’s a dominant passer.”
Weatherwax brings his own talents to the team.
A speedy wideout with reliable hands, he’s also a skilled route runner and a student of the game who can back up Garcia under center. And in an age of sports specialization, Weatherwax is an anomaly.
Along with being a wide receiver on the football team, he plays guard for the basketball team and is the baseball team’s centerfielder. But if he gets the opportunity to continue pursuing a sport, football is where he wants to stay.
“Just the brotherhood,” he said of why he loves the game. “It’s always fun on game days. That’s usually the best part.”