Three times? Well, that’s why North Myrtle Beach will be playing for an outright Region VI-4A crown in a couple of weeks.
With the help of three long Cam Freeman-to-Xavier Anderson touchdown connections during a span of less than seven minutes in the second quarter Friday night, the No. 3 Chiefs jumped all over West Florence and then held on for a 28-21 victory in a highly anticipated matchup between two of the best teams in the classification.
“When stuff like that happens, you have to be a playmaker,” said Freeman, the junior quarterback. “Xavier had great routes, getting himself open. I just think things like that, it’s easy.”
In all three of his touchdown grabs, Anderson was either uncovered past the line of scrimmage or created ample separation. He went in untouched on the first two, and had to only fend off a mild swat on the last one.
Anderson ended with a career-high 186 yards and those three scores, and Freeman’s 221 yards passing nearly matched his total from the first four games combined. For a quarterback that doesn’t throw the ball that much, a receiver who leads the team by snagging fewer than two receptions per game and an offense that rarely airs it out like that, it was a necessary change of pace against a West Florence offense that was finding ways to temper the rushing attack.
That is, until it mattered most.
Following a Knights’ touchdown to close the gap to a one-score North Myrtle Beach advantage with 7:05 left, the Chiefs took the ball and used up all of the time with a 14-play, run-heavy series. Tailback Nyliek Livingston (who ended the night with 145 yards and his fifth straight 100-yard game) had eight carries on that drive alone. Freeman tucked it a couple times and Devin Montgomery had a couple more.
“The biggest thing was our offensive line doing their job and Cam doing a really good job reading plays and getting the ball where it needs to be,” North Myrtle Beach head coach Matt Reel said. “We’re not happy about the second half, but that last drive is a lot of things we can build off going forward.
"That last drive is prototypical for what we want — to control the line of scrimmage, run the football, pick and choose our play-action spots, taking our advantages and just execute."
The loss dropped West Florence out of contention for a top-two region finish, and while the Knights (3-2 overall, 2-2 Region VI-4A) will likely be among a small number of teams fighting for one of the at-large bids, North Myrtle Beach (5-0, 5-0) is aiming much higher.
The Chiefs, coupled with Myrtle Beach’s loss at Wilson Friday, are now in sole possession of first place in the region and can clinch an outright title with a Seahawks’ loss next week (at home versus South Florence) or a North Myrtle Beach win in the rivalry series in Little River on Nov. 6.
Reel’s squad — which previously cancelled next week’s game at St. James — will have 13 days to prepare for that game, knowing it has already locked in a school-record eighth consecutive playoff berth.
“This is the year with our older group to push through and get that win,” Reel said. “We’ve got them at home. They’re nothing else you can ask for. Everything is set up for us. … We’ve got two weeks and then we’ll give them what we’ve got.”