Three of Horry County’s playoff-bound football teams are going to rack up some mileage in the next two to three weeks.
That is, if they can keep their seasons going in the playoffs.
Carolina Forest, Myrtle Beach and Aynor each finished second in their respective regions, and thanks to an abbreviated playoff format that cut the fields in half, that means each of them will hit the road this week. These won’t be short trips.
Those three will combine to pile up 828 round-trip miles and more than 15 hours on buses, not including loading/unloading and time for food/bathroom breaks to play one game each.
Aynor is going be spending a relatively light three hours and 40 minutes or so getting back and forth to Oceanside Collegiate in Mount Pleasant. Carolina Forest will be going a tick further, heading to Goose Creek.
Myrtle Beach will travel the furthest of the bunch, navigating 208 miles each way from school to school Friday to play at South Aiken.
Simultaneously, the Seahawks are also huge West Florence fans this week, too. That’s because if Myrtle Beach beats South Aiken, it will play either at Beaufort (173 miles each way) or at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium against West.
Aynor would require a first-round victory by itself and Brookland-Cayce to earn a second-round home game (Brookland-Cayce is facing Camden, one of the top three teams in the classification). Carolina Forest, meanwhile will have to travel again for the second round regardless. The Panthers face the Dutch Fork-Summerville winner, with both of those teams holding the home-site advantage.
If Carolina Forest, Myrtle Beach and Aynor are all successful Friday and forced to go on the road again for round two, it will add a minimum of 758 road miles to the district’s travel budget.
AS FOR NORTH MYRTLE BEACH?
As long as Matt Reel’s team keeps winning, odds are that it will stay at home until the state championship game.
North Myrtle Beach has its first two games guaranteed to be played at the Hank Hester Sports Complex. And as long as any team other than Beaufort comes out of the top half of the lower state bracket, the Chiefs will stay there for the third round, too.
It’s just one more benefit of an undefeated regular season. It’s also another reason North Myrtle Beach is so confident in its chances during the playoffs.
“I think we should. Why not?” Reel said when asked if the Chiefs should be considered the favorite. “We haven’t lost. We played everybody really well. We beat three teams in the Top 10 in the state. Who else has done that in 4A? I know we’ve played really good people. I know we’ve been battle tested. I know our kids are tough.”
To answer Reel’s question: No other team in Class 4A has defeated three ranked opponents this year. The Chiefs did it with wins over Hartsville, West Florence and Myrtle Beach.
Quite a bit of North Myrtle Beach’s production this season further backs up the coach’s statement.
The Chiefs have allowed an average fewer than 13 points per game and beat five of their six opponents by 19 points or more. And as far as random stats go, they were never on defense in the fourth quarter in a one-score game (they ran out the final seven minutes of clock in the win over West Florence after the Knights closed it to 28-21).
In other words, North Myrtle Beach has handled every bit of business in front of it to date, without really being threatened late in any game. The team has entered the postseason undefeated under Reel before, but he still called this year “uncharted waters.”
“I’m as excited as I’ve been in 13, 14 years of doing this,” he said. “It isn’t because of me. It’s because of the guys I’m coaching with and the kids that I’ve got I’m coaching every day.”
AROUND THE AREA
The six points Myrtle Beach scored in Friday’s loss to North Myrtle Beach was the first time the Seahawks had failed to reach the end zone in a game since a 51-0 defeat at Byrnes to open the 2017 season. It was also tied for the fewest points Myrtle Beach had scored in the 25-year history of the season (matching the 35-6 loss in 2001). … Five different Horry County running backs have eclipsed 800 yards rushing so far this season, a considerable number given the reduction in games for the regular season. Green Sea Floyds senior Jaquan Dixon is currently in the lead with 875 yards, although the Trojans’ season is over. Not far behind him are Aynor’s Noah Jones, the Carolina Forest duo of Kyle Watkins and Luke Janack, and North Myrtle Beach’s Nyliek Livingston. All four of those players have at least one playoff game awaiting them, meaning any of the four will have an opportunity to reach the 1,000-yard plateau.