Remember that scene in "Varsity Blues" when the old-timer starts counting all the wide receivers at practice?
In a parallel universe — one a little more real — someone in Little River could be doing the same thing with all the running backs at North Myrtle Beach. The Chiefs’ offense, despite significant departures at quarterback, receiver and along the line, will have no shortage of players to carry the football in 2019.
In total, there will be four players with varying degrees of varsity experience — all of whom averaged better than 5.5 yards per carry last year — as well as a pair of junior varsity guys head coach Matt Reel can’t keep down any longer. Just how good are some of those guys coming back? One of them, Ramsey Lewis, will actually be the team’s primary quarterback this year as the Chiefs transition back to a more traditional-looking triple option attack.
“We need a guy who can run and keep teams accountable,” Reel said. “Our thinking around it is we need a really explosive guy. We want the ball in his hands as much as possible. Ramsey’s definitely that guy.”
Lewis led the team in rushing last year, going for 600 yards (and four touchdowns). Reel contends his new signal caller can throw it around a little bit, too. But the coach admitted that all the down-field shots the team took with now-graduated quarterback Cason McClendon are going to become less frequent.
Again, that has quite a bit to do with how adept this team is at the position behind quarterback.
Also returning this year are Zyon Belle (477 yards, 5.6 yards per carry, four touchdowns), Devin Montgomery (392, 6.9, three) and Messiah Gore, who was often the odd man out last year when Nick Vereen was still around but still averaged more than seven yards per carry.
Those four, as well as the newcomers, have also had plenty of practice experience, something Montgomery said aided the offseason workouts and right into fall camp. Although Reel may concentrate on one or two plays on any given day, there is nothing vanilla about how the playbook is being addressed overall.
“I really think that he’s going to go at a good pace,” Montgomery said. “Most of our guys know what to do in a game. We’ll get there. It doesn’t take us a lot of time to find the right gap.”
There will be early concerns around the rest of the offense, where several of the Chiefs’ top players at various positions moved on, but the biggest question may ultimately be how North Myrtle Beach keeps up with its own recent history of success.
Each of Reel’s first two teams (as well as Blair Hardin’s last squad in 2016) advanced to the third round of the state playoffs.
“How are our kids going to step up? Will they get shaken by big moments and what’s going on?” Reel asked of his players’ ability to navigate change. “But I think talent-wise, we’re really good. It can be really, really successful. We can win nine or 10 games every year if people show up and do their jobs.”