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Carolina Forest's Mason Garcia looks to pass as the Panthers beat Cane Bay High School 42-7 in the first round of the 5A playoffs on Thursday. Carolina Forest will play at home next week. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Marc Morris knows that Mason Garcia wasn’t just a really good football player who spurred a deep playoff run.

No, that was putting it too lightly. For Morris, his senior quarterback was a generational type of talent who played a monster role in transforming an entire program.

“Getting a kid that is that size that really just shot up in the weight room to make himself the type of player he is to [go along with] that arm strength and that ability? Players like that don’t come along very often,” Morris said. “Watching him grow up for four years and watching how much he improved has been a pleasure for me and all our staff — hopefully for our community and our fans, too. I’m really fortunate that he’s been a part of my life and a part of my program.”

Garcia, the MyHorryNews.com All-County Offensive Player of the Year, threw for more than 2,100 yards and rushed for more than 750 this fall. He put up 34 combined touchdowns as a senior.

It led to him being selected for the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl before getting a promotion to the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. More importantly, it was all crucial for a Panthers squad that won the Region VI-5A championship and advanced to the lower state finals, both of which were firsts in school history. Whatever success that follows for Carolina Forest in the years to come will now be based upon what Garcia was able to helped inspire during his junior and senior seasons.

“I grew as a person and showed everybody I could be a leader. It’s who I was,” he said. “This place always wanted a good program and I led this team. All these players have led this team to a great accomplishment and hopefully it continues year after year.”

In two seasons (and a handful of games as a back-up during his sophomore campaign), Garcia passed and rushed for 5,295 yards and 54 touchdowns. The highlight reel he put together was strong.

Among them, his two-point conversion run that delivered a playoff victory over Lexington in 2018 and a five-touchdown performance against West Florence in October. There were also several stout postseason showings last month.

They all contributed to a body of work that won’t soon be forgotten — at Carolina Forest and beyond — as he makes his way to East Carolina.

“I’ve coached six division one quarterbacks in my programs,” Morris said. “He’s got the most talent of any of the ones that I’ve been around. He’ll do great things at ECU. If he does everything the right way, he’ll play at the next level.”

MORRIS EARNS COACH OF THE YEAR HONORS

Marc Morris has continued the build at Carolina Forest, and the Panthers’ sixth-year coach had his peers around the county bragging on him throughout his team’s dynamic 2019 season.

“Look at what he has done with a program that has never been successful,” Socastee’s Marty Jacobs said of Morris, the MyHorryNews.com All-County Coach of the Year.

For the first time in school history, Carolina Forest reached the lower state finals this fall. It lost to state powerhouse Dutch Fork, which went on to win its fourth consecutive overall title.

However, the run the Panthers made was something that will linger in people’s minds for years to come. That’s because of the improvement this program made in a relatively small amount of time.

Prior to this year, the team had advanced to the third round of the playoffs just twice - both when it was a member of Class 3A during its first decade of varsity action. In the last three years, the Panthers have won five postseason games, won their first Region VI-5A championship and hosted their first playoff contests in the state’s largest classification.

“Morris has done an excellent job of taking his team to new heights,” Conway coach Carlton Terry said.

MYHORRYNEWS.COM ALL-COUNTY OFFENSIVE FOOTBALL TEAM

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Mason Garcia

School | Carolina Forest

Position | Quarterback

Grade | Senior

Year in review | East Carolina commitment piled up an area-high 2,149 passing yards and 19 touchdown passes while also rushing for 761 yards and another 14 touchdowns. Spurred the program’s first run to the Class 5A lower state championship game.

Luke Doty

School | Myrtle Beach

Position | Quarterback

Grade | Senior

Year in review | Prior to suffering a season-ending injury in the playoff opener, the Shrine Bowl selection and USC commitment threw for 1,876 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Jaquan Dixon

School | Green Sea Floyds

Position | Running back

Grade | Junior

Year in review | Area’s leading rushing finished the year with 1,815 yards on the ground, another 186 receiving and 32 total touchdowns. Averaged 11.7 yards per carry.

David Legette

School | Carolina Forest

Position | Running back

Grade | Senior

Year in review | Capped off his career with 29 touchdowns and 1,612 more yards during his senior season, recording eight 100-yard games for the region champions.

Xayvion Knox

School | Myrtle Beach

Position | Running back

Grade | Senior

Year in review | With help of a monster playoff season, finished the year with 1,017 yards and 26 touchdowns. Scored at least one touchdown in his last 11 games. 

Xavier Kinlaw

School | Conway

Position | Receiver

Grade | Senior

Year in review | Led the area in both receiving yards (909) and touchdowns (13) and had six receptions of 45 yards or longer throughout the year.

Deondray Stanfield

School | St. James

Position | Receiver/running back

Grade | Senior

Year in review | The split back put up 774 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground and another 387 yards and three touchdowns receiving for the Sharks.

Colby Todd

School | Aynor

Position | Offensive line

Grade | Senior

Year in review | Blue Jackets right tackle helped pave the way for 4,700 yards of total offense, an undefeated regular season and a Region VI-3A championship. 

Hayden Best

School | North Myrtle Beach

Position | Offensive line

Grade | Senior

Year in review | Shifted between guard, center, long snapper and short snapper. Recorded 12 pancake blocks and gave up just one sack all season.

Darin Goss

School | Carolina Forest

Position | Offensive line

Grade | Senior

Year in review | Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas selection was the most consistent part of an offensive line that put up 5,400 yards of offense in team’s best season to date.

Ethan Damron

School | Green Sea Floyds

Position | Tight end

Grade | Senior

Year in review | While mostly being used as a sixth offensive lineman and grading out at north of 90 percent, Damron also caught nine touchdowns.

Sullivan Hardin

School | Myrtle Beach

Position | Kicker

Grade | Junior

Year in review | Specialist converted 76 of his 80 PATs and seven-of-eight field goals (96 total points) while also notching touchbacks on just shy of 90 percent of his 104 kickoffs.

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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