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Myrtle Beach celebrates the win over Hartsville on Friday. Myrtle Beach won 28-21 and are the lower state champions. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

The Myrtle Beach Seahawks earned a chance to defend their Class 4A state championship Friday, downing a tough Hartsville squad 28-21 in the lower state title game.

Playing again without their injured star quarterback Luke Doty, the Seahawks relied on sophomore quarterback Ryan Burger and a strong defense to keep their undefeated record intact and set up a state championship match against Wren next week.

Friday night’s game was the second meeting between Myrtle Beach and region foe Hartsville this season. Myrtle Beach won the first round 42-21, but the second match proved to be a more difficult battle for the Seahawks.

Hartsville jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter with Myrtle Beach having trouble getting into a rhythm on offense. But the Seahawks settled down in the second quarter, mixing the passing game with their running back “rhino” package. A Xayvion Knox rushing TD and a scoring pass from Burger to JJ Jones with just under two minutes left in the second quarter notched the score at 14-14 at the halftime break.

An interception by the Seahawks’ Shedrick Pointer led to the second TD toss from Burger to Jones with nine minutes left in the third quarter. But the 21-14 lead was short-lived as the Red Foxes drove the field and scored seven minutes later, tying the match at 21-21.

Knox rushed for his second touchdown with 12 seconds left in the third, giving the Seahawks the lead at 28-21.

Neither team could find the end zone in the fourth. Quamil Spells had a huge sack to force a Hartsville punt midway through the period, giving the ball back to the Seahawks deep in their own territory.

Burger finished the night 12-of-22 passing for 209 yards and two touchdowns, but it was two crucial third down passes in the waning minutes of the game that were just as important. The passes allowed the Seahawks to run most of the clock down, giving the ball back to the Red Foxes with just 44 seconds remaining. The Myrtle Beach defense stepped up, stopping Hartsville and preserving the lead and the lower state title.

Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson said Friday night’s win was a complete team effort. He noted that with Doty’s injury late in the season, the defense had to step up and the offensive coaches had to come up with some new strategies to keep the season going.

“I’m really proud of how our guys came back after being down 14 points,” Wilson said. “Burger threw some great passes when we needed it. Our defense did a great job against a tough Hartsville team.”

Hartsville only completed two passes in the game.

Wilson said Knox has been a key element, especially toward the end of the season.

“Xayvion has played great on both sides of the ball,” he said.

Praising his players and his coaching staff, Wilson added, “This was a great team win. We bent a little, but we didn’t break.”

The Seahawks will play Wren next Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia for a chance to bring home back-to-back state 4A titles. Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m.

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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