Coaches love to talk about how much more difficult each round of the playoffs is than the previous week.
The three in Horry County are spot-on with their games this Friday.
Carolina Forest, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach will each be facing opponents in the second round who are considerably better than their playoff openers. Myrtle Beach will head to Beaufort, North Myrtle Beach will play host to North Augusta and Carolina Forest will play at four-time defending state champion Dutch Fork.
Those are matchups that in a normal year would be happening one round later. However, by shaving the brackets in half, more games between teams that have been performing at a higher level from start to finish are here and now.
Those six teams alone have a combined record of 38-5. Two of the losses belong to Myrtle Beach. Beaufort and North Augusta’s lone defeat came at the hands of higher-class foes, and Carolina Forest’s one loss was on the road at region champion Sumter.
Those are the types of records we’re seeing across the board. Unlike years past when a team or two that struggled early but got hot late squeaked into the playoffs, we’re not getting those Cinderella stories.
No, in 2020, what’s left of abbreviated playoff fields is pretty much who we expected to be around. Between common sense and the state’s media polls (which frequently include some head-scratchers), this was all sort of blue-printed when the brackets were released.
Of the eight first-round games in the Class 5A playoffs, there were only two seedings upsets: River Bluff’s win at Fort Dorchester and Carolina Forest’s victory at Goose Creek. There were also two in Class 4A (Irmo over Westside and Catawba Ridge over Greer).
In mostly keeping with the status quo, it meant the teams who frequently look better on paper or in the state rankings continued to do their thing. In Class 5A, seven of the eight remaining teams were ranked in the Top 10 of the final regular-season media rankings, with the eighth, River Bluff, receiving votes. In Class 4A, only Upper State squad Irmo was not ranked or receiving votes in the most-recent poll. (By comparison, in the smallest three classes combined, only one remaining team was not ranked or receiving votes.)
HORRY COUNTY’S RUN CONTINUES
The nine local programs as a whole have continued to prove — even during the craziest of years — that their rise up the football ranks is no fluke.
Collectively, the nine teams in the district have won 60.3% of their games this fall, with at least three contests left on the season. In 2019, the nine district programs reset their modern-era best by winning 61.3% of their games.
This season, only three teams (St. James, Conway and Loris) finished below .500. Opposite of that, Carolina Forest, Socastee, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Aynor all have guaranteed winning records. (Socastee’s 4-2 mark means the team had its first winning season since 2015.)
Green Sea Floyds finished at 3-3 after missing the playoffs and electing not to play an extra game last week.
Every team in the county outside of Myrtle Beach had at least one in-season game canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 reasons.
GAUDY RUSHING TOTALS
After three huge performances in the first round, Horry County now has three 1,000-yard rushers.
North Myrtle Beach’s Nyliek Livingston and the Carolina Forest tandem of Luke Janack and Kyle Watkins all have reached the plateau. Livingston leads the way with 1,050 yards; Janack has 1,044; Watkins is at 1,043. All three players rushed for 200 yards in the opening round.
Livingston has run for at least 100 yards in all seven of the Chiefs’ games this year. His 206 in the win over James Island was a season and career high.
Janack went for 219 against Goose Creek, but it was shy of his season best. He had 243 in a non-region win over Beaufort.
Watkins also put up his second 200-yard game of the year, finishing with 208 against Goose Creek. It was the second time this year (along with the season-opening win over South Florence) that Watkins rushed for 200 yards and four touchdowns in a game.