Myrtle Beach's Luke Doty embraces Ryan Burger after the Seahawks lose to Wren High School in the state championship game in Columbia on Saturday. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

COLUMBIA | Eventually, all those deficits were going to cost the Myrtle Beach football team.

Eventually was Saturday.

The Seahawks fell behind Wren in the Class 4A state championship game and didn’t have enough in the tank to make up for it on the scoreboard. It was something the team had done in each of the first four weeks of the playoffs.

But on the biggest stage, the comeback was too little to matter.

“We came out a little slow. We didn’t get into tempo too much,” senior Xayvion Knox said after he and his teammates lost 35-22 at the University of South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium. … That’s the big thing, we had to come out of the gate hot. We didn’t. It’s as simple as that.”

Wren quarterback Joe Owens did.

The Hurricanes senior threw for three touchdowns and 177 yards in the first quarter alone. By halftime, he had added another score and was up over 200 yards through the air.

At that point, Myrtle Beach trailed, something of a norm this postseason. It happened against Lakewood in the opener — when star quarterback Luke Doty was lost for the rest of the way with a hand injury that required surgery — then again the following week against North Myrtle Beach. In the third round, it was Airport that jumped out to an early advantage, and Hartsville did it in the lower state championship last Friday.

So when Wren did it, there was no obvious panic.

Nor, it turned out, was there a clear-cut path to making up the difference.

Wren’s defense did allow 10 points in the second quarter and an 83-yard Knox run out of the Rhino package in the third. That latter score made it a five-point game.

It’s as close as the Seahawks would get, as Wren’s Logan Simmons punched in his own run 89 seconds later to extend the lead back to double digits. It made sure that everything Owens and his own talented receiving corps did in the first 15 minutes of the game stuck.

“It was fast-paced,” Myrtle Beach linebacker Kenny Byrd said. “We needed to wake up and try to pick it up a little bit. They just out-played us. When our pressure was on him, he couldn’t throw the ball. We just couldn’t always put the pressure on him.”

Myrtle Beach turned up the heat in the final two-and-a-half quarters, getting three sacks and forcing Owens out of the pocket and his comfort zone. There was no comeback, though, because that’s also what Wren did to Ryan Burger.

The sophomore signal caller took over for Doty midway through that Lakewood game. Unlike the rest of the postseason, he was visibly uncomfortable for much of the night. He was sacked four times and had no choice but to tuck and run more than anyone would have liked.

The game was effectively sealed when Wren picked him off in the end zone with under five minutes left. The Hurricanes ran out the final ticks and celebrated their first state football championship in school history. 

For Myrtle Beach, it ended a chance at back-to-back titles and a five-week span that many believed would end long before they made it to Columbia.

“It was a great group of seniors who did an amazing job, even when the chips were down several times throughout the playoffs,” Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson said. “We got in that hole again early. We couldn’t quite battle back and get it done. To win a state championship — and you hear this all the time — you’ve got to be good enough to do it and have to have the ball bounce your way some. Then, you’ve got to stay healthy. The balls kind of bounced our way the last four weeks, but not so much [against Wren].”

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236


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