Matt Reel preached consistency all year.
He told his North Myrtle Beach football team that it was the only way they’d reach new heights. The same game week preparation. The same style of play. Heck, he even ate at the same Wendy’s every Thursday night — a No. 1 meal, if you’re curious.
It was going to be the blueprint for royal blue and yellow gold success.
“We have to stay the course, keep doing the same things we have been doing,” Reel said after his scheme worked again. “It’s a different week. Just because it’s a bigger game, it doesn’t change our process. It doesn’t change how we handle things. We’ll have the exact same plan. Monday’s practice will be the same as Monday’s always is. If you get out of that routine, it signals to your kids that it is something new.”
And yet, that’s exactly where North Myrtle Beach is: new territory.
The Chiefs reached the lower state finals for the first time in school history with a 35-10 second-round win over North Augusta on Friday night. They got another smothering defensive performance, a big special teams touchdown to start the game and yet another impressive showing from running back Nyliek Livingston behind this senior-laden offensive line.
That should sound familiar, because it’s basically what the previous seven opponents could tell you, too.
Outside of the 28-21 win over West Florence on Oct. 23, North Myrtle Beach has defeated every opponent by at least 19 points to remain undefeated and make it look rather effortless in the process.
Friday against the Yellow Jackets, it all began with a super-fast start when Chandler McCall took the opening kickoff back 99 yards to light the spark.
“Our coaches always tell us ‘One special teams touchdown and the chances of you winning the game skyrocket,’” defensive lineman Henry Duke said. “Chandler, that play right there. He is one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen. Coming out of the gate like that, it puts the momentum heavily in our favor.”
Said McCall: “Plays like that, it just gets the team rolling. It allowed us to go up 14-0 and get a good start to the game and make some mistakes. When we all play together, we’re tough to beat.”
Less than three minutes after McCall’s return, quarterback Cam Freeman connected with Tyree Smith for a 36-yard touchdown pass to put the Chiefs up 14-0. Ultimately, it was all they would need to win this game, even if they weren’t done yet.
Livingston ran for a touchdown and 170 yards — his eighth 100-yard game out of eight chances this season. Devin Montgomery picked up some key yardage on the ground in a relief roll, finishing with 57 of his own. Freeman and Javarius Hooks added touchdown runs.
And that defense, well, they just continued to impress.
Duke had a pair of sacks and three tackles for loss to go along with six tackles. Billy Barlow added a sack of his own and two backfield stops. Chase Simmons, one day after verbally committing to Coastal Carolina University, was in on a sack with Mark Bellamy.
Zyer Belle picked off a pass late.
The display sent North Myrtle Beach a step further than it had ever been in the state playoffs in 51 years of the school’s existence. The Chiefs (8-0) will face Myrtle Beach — a 49-37 winner over Beaufort in the other lower state semifinal game — next Friday at home.
It will add to the rivalry, especially if Reel and his team can keep it going another week and prevent the Seahawks from doing what they’ve mostly done between these two when it matters.
Myrtle Beach has defeated the Chiefs in each of the last two postseasons. Reel and his team believe they’ve done enough so far to prove that they can flip the script.
“I don’t see why we can’t. If you do it for eight in a 10-game season, that’s 80% of our season,” Reel said. “I really believe we’re the best team in the lower state. I’ve told our kids that since day one. We just have to play like it.”
Or, the way they have all year.