Everything about how Myrtle Beach entered the final quarter said the Seahawks’ season was going to end, to come crashing down after a furious run through the first 10 games of the season.
Luke Doty was in street clothes. So was J.J. Jones.
North Myrtle Beach led by 13 points and its offense — one that was starting to run downhill — had the ball.
Quamil Spells happened.
Ryan Burger and Adam Randall happened.
And Xayvion Knox, the star of the first-round win over Lakewood, happened again.
Myrtle Beach scored 21 unanswered points in the final 10:37 to win 35-27 Thursday at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium. The Seahawks advanced to the third round of the playoffs, keeping their hopes of repeating as state champions alive while simultaneously proving that it’s not over until it’s over.
“If that part of your brain clicks on, you should quit football,” said Randall, who scored the go-ahead touchdown on a pass from Burger with 6:21 to go. “You should know that if you trust in your gut that you can win this game, if you believe, that part in your brain has to be ready whether you’re up or you’re down and facing adversity.”
Yet, it seemed like doubt had crept in.
When the fourth quarter started, the normally upbeat Seahawk sideline was relatively still. There was little bouncing, only bits of scattered movement, really. However, Spells, a Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas selection, picked up a Ramsey Lewis fumble and returned it 41 yards to close the gap. All of sudden, there was some pep.
After forcing a three-and-out, Burger, the back-up quarterback who was playing in place of Doty, hit Randall for a 24-yard pass on a second-and-long and then connected with the sophomore receiver again a few plays later on fourth down for a touchdown to give the Seahawks their first lead since the first quarter.
After another three-and-out by the Myrtle Beach defense, the offense took its next drive 79 yards — all on Knox carries and a pair of big Chiefs’ defensive penalties. The senior tailback scored his ninth touchdown of the last two weeks on a 59-yard run.
“You saw Adam Randall, you saw Xayvion Knox just sort of will their way to the end zone,” Seahawks coach Mickey Wilson said. “That’s just sort of what we’re about. Those guys really stepped up for us.”
As Wilson and Randall both said, though, it was a direct emotional feed off Spells’ play.
Lewis, who was selected to the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl, mishandled the ball on a simple quarterback draw on the third snap of the final period. It bounced around and eventually Spells grabbed it, covered most of the distance and then carried a Chief into the end zone.
“There was no way Quamil was going down,” Randall said. “He’s squatting 650 pounds. Nobody’s bringing that tank down.”
Thanks to what transpired in the little bit of time after, North Myrtle Beach coach Matt Reel and his team’s season ended at Doug Shaw for the second straight season.
“I believed we were going to come in here and win this football game,” Reel said. “There are times where you say that to get your guys ready to play because you have to. But I really felt like our kids were going to play pretty well tonight. I felt like our kids were over the whole Myrtle Beach aura.”
The Chiefs certainly felt that way after Zyer Belle ripped off an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter to give the Chiefs a double-digit advantage, and even more so when Zane Smith extended the lead to 13 points with his field goal later in the quarter.
Instead, a little bit of Seahawk magic prevented North Myrtle Beach from making its fourth consecutive trip to the third round of the state playoffs, a major boon considering the Chiefs had done it just once in their first 46 years of varsity football.
Myrtle Beach will await Friday’s game between Airport and Lower Richland to see who it plays, but also where. If fellow No. 1 seed Lower Richland advances, the Seahawks will be heading to the Midlands next week. If Airport wins, the Seahawks will have at least one more game at Doug Shaw.
More than likely, they’ll have J.J. Jones, the talented receiver who has been out since week nine with an elbow injury, back in uniform. However, Wilson said he and the coaching staff are proceeding as if Luke Doty won’t be ready to return from his hand injury suffered in the postseason opener.
Either way, those are debates the training staff and coaches can have while getting ready for another game — rather than while closing up shop for the season.
All it took was a spark.
“We handled adversity, and we did great,” Spells said. “Even without Luke, even without J.J., I felt like we still had it. I felt like we still had it.”