DARLINGTON — When his team’s first few drives came up empty Friday, Matt Reel had no flashbacks to the last time his team played Darlington.
Even when the Falcons took a 6-0 lead, the Chiefs coach didn’t worry.
“This is a different group, man,” Reel said. “This group is not last year. We have strong leadership. And the guys to this point, whether it’s been failure or success, they’ve known how to respond to it.”
The Chiefs certainly responded Friday. After giving up a touchdown on an 88-yard fumble recovery in the opening quarter, North Myrtle Beach’s offense caught fire, scoring the next nine touchdowns en route to a 63-14 victory over the team that stunned them in a 10-9 upset a year ago.
Reel acknowledged his team didn’t start the game the way he had hoped they would, but he was pleased with how they adjusted.
“We were too tight early in the game wanting to not make a mistake,” he said. “And then we relaxed and we just started making plays.”
The scoring started when Darlington crowded the box to shut down the Chiefs’ running game. That’s when North Myrtle Beach quarterback Cameron Freeman went to the air, hitting Xavier Anderson on two long throws that each set up a touchdown.
“It opened things up a little bit,” Reel said. “Then our confidence took off. And once that happened, man, you’ve got a defense like we’ve got, they get short fields, we get the ball back really fast, and then we just did a good job capitalizing on that.”
At the half, the Chiefs led 21-6. Then they unleashed a 35-point third quarter that showed why they are ranked fifth in the state in Class 4A.
North Myrtle Beach again relied on a powerful ground game, which accounted for 256 of their 426 offensive yards. Running back Nyliek Livingston led the way with three touchdowns and 111 rushing yards — his fourth straight game going over the century mark.
Anderson finished the game with 83 receiving yards while Freeman was 7-for-14 passing for 142 yards.
Even the backups made the stat sheet. Reserve quarterback Will Murray threw a pair of touchdown passes.
The Chiefs are now 4-0 in region play and can clinch a playoff spot with a victory over West Florence next week.
However, Reel stressed that the toughest part of his team's schedule lies ahead.
“We haven’t done anything,” he said. “We’ve beaten teams that we think we should have beaten, but we haven’t secured a playoff spot, we haven’t won our region. And those are two of our goals. That’s not our only goals, but that’s two of them. So we’ve still got everything in the world to play for right now.”