The North Myrtle Beach Chiefs made history Friday night, advancing to their first state title game with a dominating 37-10 win over rival Myrtle Beach.
"It's been a long road," Chiefs head coach Matt Reel said. "This group deserves it more than any group that I've ever been around."
From the moment the game kicked off, it seemed like nothing was going to stop this Chiefs team from getting to Columbia.
Defense helped get things started early in the first quarter. North Myrtle's Elijah Veeren took down Seahawk quarterback Ryan Burger, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Mark Bellamy.
Chiefs quarterback Cameron Freeman wasted no time, going 25 yards to the house for a touchdown to make it 7-0 with 9:38 remaining in the first. It was the first of four touchdowns that Freeman would have on the night.
"He's a tough kid," Reel said. "Seeing him play the way he did, I'm really proud of him."
The defense again came up big in the first quarter, sacking Burger back at the one yard line. The following play was a safety, making it 9-0 Chiefs.
Burger would be sacked nine times on the night, a testament to the overpowering performance by the North Myrtle Beach defensive line.
"I got 57 sons right there," Reel said. "That's the way I look at it. That's the way I treat them. I'm hard on them, but a part of love is being hard on your kids and they understand that."
It certainly was tough love for Myrtle Beach's run game Friday night. The Seahawks rushed the ball 25 times for -69 yards.
"We didn't play great in the first quarter," Seahawks head coach Mickey Wilson said.
Things did settled down in the second quarter as the Seahawks started moving the ball better, but they kept coming up short on fourth downs. Myrtle Beach was one for five on fourth down conversions.
The Chiefs took advantage of the Seahawks' early offensive struggles. Freeman powered his way in from four yards out to make it 16-0 Chiefs with 2:01 left in the first half.
Myrtle Beach would add a field goal in the final 15 seconds to make it 16-3 at the break.
The Seahawks seemed to come alive early in the third quarter, forcing a three and out and then capitalizing on the opportunity as Burger tossed a dime of a ball to JJ Jones for a 45-yard touchdown to pull within six.
The key play that turned the game on its head was when the Chiefs were facing a fourth down and six late in the third quarter. That's when Freeman found newly named Coastal Carolina University commit Chase Simmons for a 23-yard touchdown pass to push the Chiefs' lead to 13.
"We knew we weren't going to kick there," Reel said. "We had that play in for about seven weeks and we hadn't ran it yet."
On the defensive side of things, Simmons didn't have as many tackles as his teammates, but he made his presence known on the gridiron Friday night.
"We were back there the whole time getting pressure," Simmons said.
Myrtle Beach tried to respond but found themselves going three and out on the ensuing drive. They then botched the punt and gave the Chiefs the ball inside their own five yard line.
NMB scored one play later via a Devin Montgomery run, giving the Chiefs a 20-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
"We had some opportunities in the second half to get back in it, but we couldn't pull it off," Myrtle Beach's Wilson said.
Cameron Freeman capped off his incredible performance with a 25-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth to seal the 37-10 victory.
When the clock hit triple zero, dreams became reality for North Myrtle Beach as the team's light show began and the players stormed the field, celebrating the program's first ever lower state title.
"We've had a lot of work going on through the years, barely making it through the third round. It's been tough," Simmons said. "Last year, I knew we had the team this year, as far as the chemistry and the build and the passion we have for each other. None of these guys out here are playing for themselves."
North Myrtle Beach (9-0) now prepares for a trip west next week. They'll face off with another state championship first timer in AC Flora, which defeated Catawba Ridge 41-21 Friday night.
The Falcons, like the Chiefs, are also undefeated.
The Class 4A state title game will be held at Benedict College next Saturday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m.